Saturday, July 22, 2017

For Ill. government, it’s time to play another episode of, “Who’s to Blame?”

I almost feel like I’m a kid again watching daytime TV and one of those tacky old game shows. Maybe “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall – the only thing is that we, the people of Illinois, are the ones getting “zonked.”
RAUNER TO LEGE: Back to Springfield?!?

Remember the “zonk,” the booby prizes that were hidden away amidst the real gifts, and if one wasn’t careful they’d give up that all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii and get stuck with something like a rotted, old Model T Ford.

THAT’S WHAT I feel like we’re about to get hit with in Illinois, what with the way the ongoing battle over a state budget has managed to find a way of continuing on – a sequel, so to speak.

When the General Assembly approved a budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to veto – only to have the legislators override him – there was one piece of the puzzle that was put aside.

It was the measure that outlines the portion of state funding provided for public education. Known this year as Senate Bill 1 (nice symbolism), it has been approved by the General Assembly, but hasn’t been formally sent to Rauner for his consideration.

With the budget approved, the money for the schools for state Fiscal Year 2018 exists. But without the separate bill’s approval, it hasn’t been settled how it will be allocated.

SO UNTIL THAT happens, the schools remain unsettled. Having talked with a few school administrators in recent weeks, I know they are wary of what could happen. They know there is a possibility the state funding that local school districts rely upon for their operating expenses could get caught up in a partisan political squabble.

Now the reason why the General Assembly’s leadership (ie., Democrats, as in Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) are holding off on sending the bill along to Rauner is that the governor has already made clear his intentions.

MADIGAN: How little could Lege do?

The governor objects to provisions included in the bill to have the state try to make sense of the mess that is the pension program for retired Chicago Public School teachers. Dems representing Chicago interests don’t want to give Rauner a chance to issue such a veto.

INSTEAD, THEY WANT to hold off on giving him a chance to act until later this summer, when the beginning of the new school year (about mid-August for most districts) will be so imminent that the governor would feel the pressure to back off his veto threat.

Rauner, of course, is on what he’s calling his “downstate tour” of rural municipalities where he’s going about claiming the bill is nothing but a “Chicago bailout” and that all he’s trying to do is provide a little extra funding for the school districts in those rural communities.

The usual urban vs. rural, or Chicago vs. the rest of Illinois brawl that all too often is what issues devolve down to in this state.

To Rauner, it’s greedy Chicago trying to stall things, while I know from my talks with those local school officials they’re going to be more than willing to “Blame Bruce!” if something occurs that causes state aid payments to schools to be delayed so long that the public schools won’t be able to open on time.

ONE INTERESTING MOVE is that the governor is now saying he’s giving the General Assembly until Monday at Noon to send him that bill so he can veto it – or else he’s prepared to issue the order for a special session.
Is this what Ill. in for in coming days?
Meaning back to Springfield for the legislators, as though he thinks a dose of “Capital punishment” (ie., having to spend time in Springfield during the otherwise lazy days of summer) will force the rank-and-file of the General Assembly to hand him the bill.

Of course, we saw during the final weeks of the budget debacle that just because the Legislature is in session doesn’t mean they’re doing anything meaningful. It’s only when the two sides come together that things get done, and Rauner is making it clear he’s not coming together with anybody.

So if the General Assembly winds up back at the Statehouse next week, why do I suspect we’ll get a lot more action on measures such as the one approved earlier this month that renamed a portion of Interstate 55 for former President Barack Obama? At a time when we have serious issues to address, that would be our “zonk!”


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