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Budget Shaping Up

The state budget impasse may be breaking quickly, according to this update from States School News Service:

"It
appears the House and Senate are about to pass a full-year FY 2008 budget this
weekend."

Read below for all sorts of scoop on special ed, school construction, and funding source fun.

 

Full text:

The House has adjourned but before doing so each member was questioned
behind the scenes on his or her weekend attendance
possibilities.


Then in
open session, posting requirements were waived for several bills, including SB
198, a bill to significantly increase special education personnel
reimbursement.

 

In my
opinion, that will replace SB 1 (the bill still in the Senate that carries so
many objectionable “accountability” provisions) as the new education budget
implementation (BIMP) bill. If so, current language of SB 198 will be replaced
by an amendment in the House.

 

That
doesn’t mean there will be no increase in special education reimbursement. It is
almost certain, in my view, that the $1,000-teacher increase carried in SB 1,
perhaps even more, will be written into SB 198, along with other provisions
– but not the accountability stuff of SB 1.

 

The
budget, meanwhile, will be drafted as an amendment to HB 3866, which is on third
reading in the Senate as a shell bill. A compromise between the House and the
Senate will increase school funding as much as $300 million beyond the level of
SB 1132, the bill previously passed but then stalled in the House on the
electric rate snag. In brief, the budget will treat education very
well.

 

The
funding source is uncertain, but a powerful case was made this week by
A+Illinois and a coalition of teacher and state employee unions for a 0.25%
increase in the income tax. That would raise the rate by 8.3%, rather than the
“whopping 66% increase” (2 percentage points) proposed in HB 750. It would be a
temporary, four-year increase pending a more permanent solution to school
funding problems.

 

At that
level, getting three-fifths of the legislature to vote for it should be easy,
and that would be enough to override the governor’s veto.

 

What
about capital construction? That won’t happen over the weekend. Republicans need
statutory assurance – probably in the form of a law requiring legislative
approval of every project proposed for funding by the Governor’s Office – before
funds can be released.

 

I
believe there is agreement on that, too, and that the legislators will return
after the budget is passed (they’ll need to be there to override the veto,
anyway) and such policy will be enacted in time to prevent the loss of $6.1
billion in federal highway funds.

 

The
School Construction Grant Program is likely to be revived at that time with $500
million authorized each year over a five-year period. The funding source for
that is likely to be an expansion of the current 1,200-position limit on “gaming
positions” on the nine existing riverboat casinos, probably allowing 2,000
positions.

 

Crap
table losers will cover the debt service on bonds to build roads and
schools.

 

But the
state operation budget is first. Spending authority must be codified quickly to
prevent a lot of problems for a lot of people, including school districts. Then
the legislature can turn its attention to the capital bill and other unrelated
(but linked to support for the budget) issues.

 

Check http://www.stateschoolnews.com/article.php?articleID=612
over the weekend for timely updates. The session won’t be adjourned very soon,
but I believe we will see a budget passed by Sunday night.

Filed under: ISBE / Springfield

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