Emanuel: ‘This is no way to run a state’


James Tsitiridis

Emanuel: ‘This is no way to run a state’

By Eric Bradach

Chicago is likely to fall $215.2 million short of its recently approved 2017 operating budget after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill Dec. 1 that would have required the state to contribute that amount to Chicago Public School teacher pensions.

Senate Bill 2822’s veto came approximately two weeks after City Council gave the green light to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 budget proposal, according to a Nov. 16 city press release.

“This action is both reckless and irresponsible; it’s our children who will pay the price,” Emanuel said in a Dec. 1 press release in response to Rauner’s veto. “The governor is lashing out, imperiling the system-wide gains earned by Chicago students and teachers. This is no way to run a state.”

Democratic State Rep. Robert Martwick of the 19th District told The Chronicle that he is disappointed Rauner vetoed the bill and said there could be harmful consequences for the city.

“If the veto stands, you will more than likely see mid-year teacher layoffs from CPS in order to balance their budget,” Martwick said. “We should be ensuring that our kids have quality education.”

CPS teacher Sarah Chambers said she does not know whether this will lead to another strike from the Chicago Teachers Union and thinks alternatives to cover CPS budget deficits, such as redirecting Tax Increment Financing funds, need to be explored.

According to Illinois General Assembly records, the CPS pension bill was introduced to the Senate Feb. 17 and passed April 21 unanimously. It then moved to the House where it passed June 30, 73-37. The bill was sent to Rauner Nov. 7 and vetoed Dec. 1.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton moved to override the veto the same day, which passed 36-16, according to state records. It then moved to the House where it requires a three-fifths majority, 71 out of 118. The House has until Dec. 15 to vote or the veto stands, according to the Illinois Constitution. There has not been a date set for the House vote as of press time.

Martwick could not confirm the reason a House vote was not taken to override the veto Dec. 1; however, he speculated that Democratic leadership made the decision because they did not have enough votes.

John Patterson, a spokesman for Cullerton,  said the General Assembly is no longer in session and the new assembly will be sworn in on Jan. 11, which will close all pending legislation of the previous one.

Republican State Sen. Jason Barickman told The Chronicle that all school districts have an obligation to meet their budgetary requirements without state aid, and CPS is no exception.

Barickman, who voted in favor of the bill in April but voted against the override, said the bill was part of a bipartisan agreement between Rauner and Cullerton that Rauner would sign the bill if pension reform came with it.

“Democrats have not come to an agreement on pension reform,” Barickman, who represents the 53rd District said. “They did not fulfill their end of the bargain.”

Martwick said pension reform is currently being worked on in the General Assembly, and it requires more time.

“The idea that [pension reform] has to be done before [SB 2822] is signed is ridiculous,” Martwick said. “I would like to think that Gov. Rauner is smart enough to know that.”

Barickman said Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan acknowledged the deal when it was made, and the Democrats have deliberately not moved forward on pension reform in order to shine a bad light on the governor and Illinois Republicans.

Emanuel has been the one attempting to address pension reform,  according to Martwick, and Rauner is acting as a political barrier to that process.

“[For Rauner] to derail this makes no sense,” Martwick said. “If anybody is getting the job done [in regard to pensions], it has been the City of Chicago.”

Cullerton’s aide suggested it was understood that pension reform was to be deferred because of the election. On June 30, a motion filed to reconsider the bill was passed to extend the 30-day deadline to send SB 2822 to Rauner because the Illinois General Assembly would not be able to discuss pension reform until after the November election, according to Patterson.

According to a transcript of Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno at the Senate on June 30 provided by Patterson, the senator of the 41st District said the agreement was to pass the legislation and return to the issue of pension reform at another time when the General Assembly was in session.

According to Patterson, on the same day Rauner vetoed the bill, reporters asked Cullerton whether there was an agreement after a meeting between the two, and he said no, in reference to pension reform. 

Patterson said the interview was live streamed on the internet and speculated that it was seen by Rauner or an aide of his, who interpreted it to refer to the entirety of the agreement. Patterson thinks this led to the bill’s veto by Rauner and that there needs to be stronger communication between legislative leaders and the governor.

Martwick said it is unlikely that the House will vote to override the veto because of Rauner’s influence on state Republicans and some Democrats, such as Democratic State Rep. Kenneth Dunkin who did not cast a vote on the bill June 30.

“If you had Republicans who can think for themselves and do what they thought was right, [the veto] would be overridden not with 71 votes but with 100 votes,” Martwick said. “They do not do anything unless they are allowed to.”

Chambers said she was upset when she heard about the governor’s veto but was more frustrated with state officials because they are choosing to bailout corporations before funding schools.

In contrast, Illinois legislators approved Senate Bill 2814 Dec. 1, which has been referred to by critics, such as Chambers, as a bailout bill for Chicago-based energy company Exolon Corp., and was passed to provide subsidies to the company in order to prevent energy rates going up, according to Martwick.

Martwick said the bill is a bailout of a major corporation in its simplest form and creates a perception problem for state officials.

Martwick added that Rauner also gives state officials a bad reputation. He said Rauner likes to brag about not accepting the $177,412 salary for Illinois governors but just released his 2016 income taxes, showing nearly $200 million income.

“Their priority is not with the students; it is the wealthy elite,” Chambers said.