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Illinois Lawmakers Pass Stopgap Budget, And CPS Officals Celebrate

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 30, 2016 9:37PM

Getty Images; Photo: Mark Wilson

The Illinois House and Senate on Thursday approved a stopgap budget that will fund state operations through the year and ensure schools open this fall. The series of bills now goes to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is expected to sign them.

One of the major sticking points in negotiations leading up to compromise was how much the state would be willing to fund Chicago Public Schools, the cash-strapped district for which Rauner had gone so far as to advocate bankruptcy declaration. Now we have an answer, for the short term, at least. The bills included $200 million in pension payments for the Chicago teachers plus an allowance for Chicago to raise property taxes reserved for teacher pensions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through a $588 million property tax increase last year, so any local battle for further increases may be pretty tense.

In a press conference, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools Forest Claypool, Emanuel and other schools officials praised the news while acknowledging that CPS "will still have to tighten its belt."

The stopgap budget also means that road construction projects, plans to modernize and extend the CTA Red Line, university education and health and human services that were in jeopardy will receive funding.

It took lawmakers two days of closed-door negotiations to hammer out the plan—well, two days plus a year-and-a-half of rancorous gridlock.

Of course, this is only a stopgap, and we can well expect the partisan divide to widen and moods to sour as November approaches. But at least CPS students and the social-service recipients can enjoy a breather from being pawns.

In fact, there's plenty of dissatisfaction now. Large masses of demonstrators protested at the Thompson Center on Thursday, calling for a comprehensive budget, not just a stopgap.