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State Budget Agreement Spares CTA, Funds Schools, Hits Pensions, Avoids Taxes

By vouchey in News on May 27, 2005 6:15PM

capitol_bldg.jpgGovernor Rod Blagojevich has tried to characterize his first administration with three pledges: No new taxes, more money for schools, and no more "business as usual." The Mell-Blago family feud has made his third pledge hard to believe, but last night's budget deal with Democratic Senate President Emil Jones and Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan will deliver the first two pledges -- as well as avoid the CTA's Five Faces of Death, and probably close the spring legislative session by the end of the month. All significant accomplishments, considering how much wrangling Springfield has endured this year.

The big loser though, are state employee pensions by about $750 million, which are already underfunded by $35 billion. Republican legislative leaders made a big show of how unhappy they were, by stomping out of a meeting with the governor last night.

"This gets them through the '06 election, and then whoever is elected in '06 has to deal with a huge, huge problem," said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville). "Anybody can get elected governor in this state. That was proven in the last election. Whoever it is in '06 is going to have a very difficult time."

Of course, Watson is really angry that the "anybody" elected governor in Illinois is a Democratic anybody. Next fall he'll be doing anything he can to make sure a Republican anybody is elected.

In the meantime, the CTA got $47 million, averting all the cuts we've been talking about. Yet, the money won't come without strings: In a slap to CTA President Frank Kruesi, who lacks many friends in Springfield, the budget deal requires a memorandum of understanding with CTA that there will be no service cuts, layoffs, or fare hikes.

Finally, schools got $300 million more in funding, above the existing funding formula. The nature of that funding -- for operations or new construction -- is not clear .