A bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Budgeteers has forwarded a draft of an outline of a spending plan to the Governor and legislative leaders. It includes spending cuts and revenue increases, but not Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed reforms to the structure of state government.
Speaking at Normal Community West High School, Rauner said he's evaluating that blueprint, and some trading might be possible.
"Right now the General Assembly is looking at tax reform, spending reductions and workers comp reform, and local control for property tax relief that has big reforms and if it comes together as a package in the next two and a half weeks, I'll be very supportive of that," said Rauner.
Rauner acknowledged deals tend to get done at three a.m. in the closing days of the session.
The Governor came to Normal West High School as part of his statewide tour of schools talking about the need to dramatically increase education dollars.
The Governor's current proposal includes only 55 million new dollars, not really enough to even change the amount the state has been shorting districts on what they should currently be getting.
But, in a time of scarcity, the Republican Governor said he would find more new money for schools through structural reforms in state government. Even if passed, those changes don't create new revenue right away, and schools are hurting now. Rauner said there is a way around that.
"Pension reform would kick in within 12 months. Procurement reform would kick in with about three or four months. And it's easy to bridge those dollar amounts with a short term loan or other bridges," said Rauner.
Rauner said he views short term borrowing as permissible if new revenue is on the way.
Another proposal from State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) reworks the school funding formula to offer more to districts that do not have property tax resources and less to wealthier districts. Chicago Schools would be a big beneficiary of the plan.
Under Manar's bill, the Unit Five School District in McLean County would lose 8.2 million dollars per year. Superintendent Mark Daniel said that the district can make do for another year under current funding levels, but after that bad and dramatic things will happen. District 87 Schools in Bloomington would also lose money under the measure.
Unit Five has already cut back co-curricular funding, AP courses, changed the school schedule to save money, and reduced its transportation budget significantly.
Rauner said he does not fault Senator Manar for wanting to increase funds for school districts that do not have a large property tax base. But, he said Manar's plan takes away too much money from districts like those in Bloomington-Normal.