I am pleased to report that there was a significant breakthrough in the Illinois budget stalemate last Thursday.
Members of the Illinois General Assembly approved a budget that will ensure Illinois schools open on time in the fall and remain open the entire school year. The budget also will provide long-overdue money to struggling human service providers and protect jobs throughout the state.
The package is the result of negotiations among the Senate, the House and Gov. Bruce Rauner. All sides made concessions, and none achieved everything they had sought in a balanced budget.
The governor has indicated he intends to sign the legislation, and I urge him to do so as soon as possible.
Among the funding contained in the package:
Human services: More than $670 million for grants and programs not covered by consent decree or court order. This includes money for breast and cervical cancer screenings, AIDS/HIV services, the adult and juvenile Redeploy programs, senior services, homeless services, youth programs, funeral and burial services for the poor, immigration services, minority family commissions, autism services, Teen Reach, youth programs and more.
P-12 education: Funding to ensure public schools throughout Illinois open on time and with adequate resources to operate the entire school year. Increases general state aid funding for public schools by $331 million and includes a $250 million equity grant. The legislation also includes a $75 million increase to early childhood education.
Higher education: $1 billion for universities, community colleges, MAP grants, adult education programs, career and technical education programs, IMSA operations and other higher education-related grants and programs. Includes $655 million to nine state universities; $114 million to community colleges; and $151 million to pay remaining FY16 MAP grants.
Capital projects: Includes the full capital program for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s road and transit projects, as well as appropriations to the Capital Development Board to restart halted projects, funding for park districts, water and sewer projects and school construction.
Chicago Public Schools: Additional measures that begin to reconcile the differences in state support for teacher pensions across the state and allow the Chicago Board of Education to tap local resources to support Chicago Public Schools.
By voting for this package of legislation today, I chose to invest in Illinois — as I have done many times before — by supporting a budget that reflects the state’s priorities: education, jobs and care for those who struggle to care for themselves.
Residents have demanded action and compromise to end the stalemate. We are listening. Although the agreement that was reached is neither perfect nor complete, it is the right thing to move the state forward.
I commend my colleagues in the Senate and the House and the members of the governor’s staff who found a way to come together under difficult circumstances. I hope the momentum they created will carry us into the next phase of budget negotiations.
As always, I encourage you to stay in touch. Should you have any questions, please contact my office at 708-848-2002.
Don Harmon, an Oak Park resident, is state senator, 39th District, Illinois.