Springfield – In what seems to be in many ways a replay of the Budget Battle we had in July, when the legislature voted to override the Governor’s Veto of the budget, today at 2 pm the Illinois Senate is going to hold a rare Sunday session. An expected vote to override the Governor’s Amendatory Veto of SB-1, the school funding reform bill, will be held.
At this point, here’s where we stand: The Legislature — both chambers — can override the veto, in which case SB-1 become law as it was passed in May; the Legislature can accept the Governor’s Veto — which isn’t going to happen. OR, there can be a negotiated compromise that would be written into a new bill, that would have to have the same super-majority needed in both chambers of the Legislature, and then be signed into law.
If none of these happen, then that leaves the state of Illinois with billions in a budget to fund schools, in fact, it is $350 million richer than previously — BUT — it can’t be spent until there is an approved funding formula that spells out how to distribute those funds to school districts.
An override vote requires a 3/5th majority, which means it’ll take 36 votes in the Senate, which currently has 37 Democratic senators, so an override vote is very possible. Not only is the governor’s veto taking money away from Chicago based school districts, where many senators are from, but a primary sponsor of SB-1, is Sen Andy Manar (D), a downstate senator, who’s long argued his bill will help put more money in downstate districts, while not taking any money away from wealthier districts for at least the first year.
But that’s the very point that Gov Rauner and many Republicans are making — that the changes made to the bill by the Governor, would take hundreds of millions that would go to Chicago, money the Governor says is a “bailout of CPS” and redirect those to increase funding for all districts around the state.
That likely won’t make a compelling argument to persuade Senate Democrats to uphold the Gov’s veto. But the House is in on Wednesday, and there it will be much more difficult to come up with the 3/5th margin needed to override. With the House comprised of 118 members, it takes 71 votes to have the needed super-majority to override a veto.
And so at the end of this week, we could find that Illinois’ political divide has left our schools, to open their doors this week to a new school year, without having any idea how long they will have to wait before this Legislature and this Governor agree to a piece of legislation, that will fund schools across Illinois.
And we should note, that Illinois — not places like Mississippi or Louisiana– is already the lowest state in the nation in terms of the money is spends on education, as a percent of its budget.