Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-19

EVENTFUL WEEK IN CAPITOL

With time beginning to run out and tensions mounting, lawmakers delved into the weightier issues in the Capitol this week. In committee and floor action, legislators discussed moving forward on a comprehensive state budget as well as other reform measures that have been on the front burner. Components of the “grand bargain” that were attempted earlier in the year were resurrected in the Senate.

The Senate approved measures to make appropriations for a state budget (SB 6) and to reform the school funding formula (SB 1). But bills to implement the budget (SB 42) and to freeze property taxes (SB 478) failed on the Senate floor. Legislation to raise revenue through an increase in the state’s income tax rates and to reform worker’s compensation were not called for a vote, though there are reportedly negotiations that are ongoing on these topics.

SCHOOL FUNDING REFORM

The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate both advanced their versions of the Evidence-Based Funding Model (EBM) for school reform this week. The House moved HB 2808 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) out of an appropriations committee on Wednesday and sent it to the House floor. The bi-partisan sponsored plan could be voted on next week and sent to the Senate. While in the Senate, SB 1 ( Manar, D-Bunker Hill) – substantially similar to HB 2808 – was approved and sent across the rotunda to the House.

Certainly the EBM approach supported by the Alliance has become the focus of the General Assembly, and now discussions have moved to details of the various evidence-based plans. While details of the basic elements will continue to be worked out by legislators, the Alliance focus is to ensure that equity and adequacy are preserved. More information on the Alliance position can be found here.

Partisan wrangling over the various funding reform bills did reach a fever pitch Thursday over how Chicago Public Schools (CPS) would be treated within the new formula. Various funding proposals treat the CPS block grant and pension payments differently, thus directing school funds in different directions. This will be one of the formula “details” that needs to be worked out.

PROPERTY TAX FREEZE

Governor Bruce Rauner has been calling for a property tax freeze since his first State of the State Address. And with legislators from both parties joining in on this mantra, the push continues. Wednesday, a bill that would have frozen the property tax extensions for school districts and other local governments for two years was defeated on the Senate floor. SB 478 received more than a simple majority of the Senators voting, but since the bill preempted the home rule statute, it needed a 3/5 th majority vote.

The governor’s position has been that if any increase in income tax rates will be permanent, then the freeze in property taxes should be permanent as well. Leadership in the Senate majority, due to the concern of what a freeze could do to local school district budgets, have agreed to no more than a two-year freeze.

MANDATE RELIEF


The issue of providing relief from the overabundance of unfunded and underfunded mandates on local school districts continues to be pushed by the Alliance and responded to in various pieces of legislation. Such provisions have emerged in various versions of pension bills, school funding reform bills, and property tax freeze bills. The Alliance has drafted its own bills to provide flexibility for physical education, drivers’ education, third party contracting, and allowing local boards to waive existing mandates. This language has been provided to legislators.

But in some versions of these “mandate relief” provisions that have appeared, there is much weaker language inserted (such as requiring a school board to hold a referendum at an election to request permission to seek a mandate waiver). The Alliance cannot support such provisions and will continue to fight for true relief and flexibility.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-19.