While the temporary budget passed by both legislative chambers Thursday provides much-needed financial relief for schools and social services agencies, the area’s lawmakers weren’t in a celebratory mood Thursday evening.
The four-bill package funds education for a full year, but the rest of the budget will expire in January, leaving the state’s residents wondering what’s really changed.
“This isn’t perfect, but it’s the best deal we could accomplish today,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon.
Demmer was among a handful of lawmakers who did much of the heavy lifting during months of bipartisan working group sessions. Nearly everything in the stopgap legislation was the product of the group, which makes him hopeful about future compromise, he said.
“What we have today shows that when both sides sit down and negotiate in good faith, you can get something meaningful accomplished,” Demmer said.
Because of the working group’s success, the template is likely to be used again, he said.
“I don’t know if we’ll see the same or different people in the group, but it provides an opportunity for bipartisan accomplishment.”
The momentum from the previous 2 days of frantic negotiating might have to carry over for a while – the lawmakers aren’t due back until the November veto session. It’s possible a special budget sessions could be called, but November elections threaten to extend the gridlock.
Any goodwill created in the last 48 hours won’t break the link between Gov. Bruce Rauner’s turnaround agenda and the budget, Demmer said.
“I think the budget is directly tied to the economic strength of the state, and the state is in need of fundamental economic reforms,” Demmer said.
On the other side of the aisle, state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, said he also was encouraged by the bipartisan efforts shown by party leaders in coming up with the stopgap measure.
“I am pleased that Gov. Rauner agreed to put his nonbudget agenda aside, and support the millions of residents and businesses that depend on Illinois,” Smiddy said.
Smiddy said those efforts, particularly by the working group, should be a model for future budget negotiations.
“This is only a partial-year budget for most items, and we have a lot of work to do to give residents and businesses the stability they need,” Smiddy said. “I encourage Republicans and Democrats to use the momentum we’ve built to end this time of gridlock.”
Smiddy said the state’s budget must be both responsible and compassionate, alluding to the hardship experienced by human services providers and clients during the budget impasse. He said he’s frustrated that it’s taking so long for the state to meet its financial obligations.
“The yearlong impasse has caused real pain for seniors, people with disabilities, and our neighbors that need the most help,” Smiddy said. “We absolutely cannot allow politics to have these serious consequences in the future.”
State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, said the $50.6 billion temporary budget makes a “historic investment” in education, citing K-12 funding, and money for early childhood education, and grants from the Monetary Award Program.
The education funding was negotiated without providing a “bailout” of the Chicago Public Schools system, Bivins said.
The budget fully funds the current state-aid formula for schools for the first time in 7 years. It also includes a provision that guarantees no schools will receive a funding cut from the previous year. A new $250 million equity grant will help the poorest schools in the state, and early childhood education will receive an extra $75 million.
Higher education will receive $1 billion more, in addition to the $600 million already appropriated earlier this year. The funding includes $151 million for MAP grants, and $114 million for community colleges.
Despite the education wins, the 45th District lawmaker said Thursday’s agreement wasn’t ideal, and much work remains.
“This is not the budget we had hoped to pass, but it is the budget that will break this impasse and keep us moving,” Bivins said. “It’s time to turn things around, and this is the first step.”
Bivins said it is frustrating that the state’s leaders have chosen to ignore their fiscal responsibilities for so long.
“We have been warning for years of an impending fiscal crisis, and now we are face-to-face with the stark reality of a tax-and-spend government free-for-all,” Bivins said.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, also expressed disappointment in still having no more than a temporary budget for their efforts.
“A stopgap budget is not our first choice – we have supported the ongoing efforts of working groups to find an agreement on a balanced budget with some reforms, but such is the nature of compromise,” Anderson said.
Anderson said lawmakers need to build on any bipartisan momentum created, so progress can continue on needed government and business reforms.
“This budget breaks the impasse and gets us moving in the right direction,” Anderson said.
The budget legislation was sent to the governor for his signature.
Local legislators Tom Demmer, Mike Smiddy, Tim Bivins, and Neil Anderson voted for the temporary budget, as did an overwhelming majority of legislators in both chambers. The vote in the House was 105-4, and 54-0 in the Senate.