Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Still no clear picture
of state budget for next year

IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm
IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm looks at all the moving parts of ongoing budget discussions and urges board members and administrators to contact their legislators about three important issues.

The Illinois General Assembly is in session today as it tries to wrap up the spring legislative session by Wednesday night. No agreement has yet been reached on the larger issues of a Fiscal Year 2018 budget, new revenue streams, school funding reform, or property tax relief.

In line with the dysfunctionality of the past two years, there is no clear path to resolution by the set adjournment date. With the lack of any budget agreement among the governor, House Speaker, and Senate President, the Senate majority moved its own budget package earlier this month. The bills crafted an FY ’18 budget (SB 6), would raise income tax rates and broaden the sales tax base (SB 9), and would implement a new school funding formula (SB 1). The bills are now pending in the House of Representatives, but no action has been taken on those to this point.

The House could approve those bills as they are, amend them with new language, or let them languish in a House committee. The funding bill, SB 1, has been approved by a committee and moved to the House floor, but there is a new House amendment pending which would make several changes to the measure. One of the sticking points in the funding bill is how Chicago Public Schools will fare with a new formula.

Without knowing, yet, what the House majority will do with the Senate plan, and with the governor indicating that he is not in support of the package that emerged from the Senate, the picture today is not much clearer than it has been throughout the spring.

It will take new revenue to comprehensively address and stabilize the state budget. And, undoubtedly, it will take new revenues to allow any new school funding formula to achieve the results that are desired. The governor continues to vow that he will not agree to new revenues without property tax relief and changes to business laws, such as the Workers’ Compensation Act. Then throw into the mix bills to expand gaming (SB 7), increase the minimum wage (SB 81), provide authority to borrow (SB 4), and reform pension laws (SB 16), and you have a colossal balancing act for leaders and legislators.

School board members and administrators should continue reaching out to their legislators and stress that before adjournment, they must: 1) adopt an FY 2018 budget; 2) resist any freeze on property tax extensions for school districts; and 3) adopt a more equitable and adequate school funding distribution formula.

Stay updated on the closing hours of the legislative session by checking the IASB Blog and Twitter feed.