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Doug Finke

Top achievement of 2017 is school funding reform? Really?

Rauner vetoed the first version; now he claims credit

Rauner vetoed the first version; now he claims credit

We are fully into list season now, that wonderful(?) time of year when everyone seems compelled to compile lists of stuff.

Best of.

Worst of.

And usually consisting of 10 items, whether or not the list justifies exactly that number of entries.

Add Gov. Bruce Rauner to the list of list compilers with the release of the top 10 achievements of his administration in 2017.

Right at the top, the No. 1 entry on a list that purports to take a look at some of the governor’s “biggest accomplishments this past year,” is this: “Historic Education Funding Reform.”

“For the first time in decades, Illinois has updated the formula that provides funding to the state’s public schools,” the news release says. “Thanks to Governor Rauner’s influence, this bill distributes funding more equitably. ...”

It goes on, but why bother. The release leaves out the small detail that Rauner vetoed the initial funding reform bill, which briefly threatened funding for every district in the state.

A new version was passed that mostly left out the changes Rauner wanted. Rauner signed that one, so maybe school funding reform is more properly the No. 1 achievement of his pen.

SIXTH ON THE list of accomplishments was the governor’s veto of the income tax increase that was part of the budget agreement last summer.

At least this time, Rauner’s office noted the full story – that the General Assembly overrode the veto and enacted the tax hike that helped pay for the spending that also was approved and finally ended the budget impasse.

The achievement news release says the governor “will not stop until [Speaker Michael] Madigan’s outrageous tax hike is rolled back.”

Apparently he plans to be in office even longer than Madigan.

RAUNER’S opponents seized on the list to criticize the governor.

J.B Pritzker’s campaign quickly responded with its own top 10 list of Rauner “accomplishments” that included things like the soaring state bill backlog, turmoil at the Department of Children and Family Services, and staff purges in Rauner’s executive office.

The Democratic Governors Association put out its own statement saying Rauner’s list “includes a couple whoppers, some stretches, and a few things that simply didn’t happen.”

But at least Rauner came up with a list of 10 things.

AMONG THE more unusual recent news releases was one announcing that in late February, the House and Senate will open their sessions with Hindu prayers.

Unusual in the sense that while both chambers open their floor sessions with a prayer, usually delivered by a member of the clergy, there normally isn’t a news release making the announcement.

The release came from Rajan Zed, who said he is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism. He said he will “deliver the invocations from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the Senate and House.” He will also deliver the prayers in English.

Illinois is not the only legislature that Zed has visited or plans to visit. He delivered the opening prayers before the Wyoming Legislature earlier this year. And Zed’s website says he’ll be praying with the Iowa Legislature the day before he comes to Illinois.

The Senate Democrats said they are aware that Zed is supposed to deliver the opening prayer sometime in the future, but did not have additional information. Normally, the opening prayer is delivered by someone invited by a lawmaker.

If you are wondering whether Hindu prayers have ever opened the General Assembly’s session, you’ll have to keep wondering. The Legislature doesn’t keep a checklist of which religions or denominations of religions have been represented in opening prayers.

They’ve heard from Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and probably many more over the years. The public can decide how much benefit has come from it.