Lawmakers leaning toward budget stopgap

In the midst of a financial crisis, Illinois Democratic leaders and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner failed yet again this month to reach a compromise on the budget.

Now, the end of the current fiscal year approaches — July 1 is the beginning of a new fiscal year — and the state is no closer to signed legislation for an overall spending plan.

Stopgap funding proposed in the legislature consists of several different bills for state-funded projects and institutions, such as social services, IDOT road construction and higher education.

Of those, State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) said legislators would likely pass a bill Wednesday that appropriates funds to IDOT construction projects. The Route 3 improvement project in Waterloo would continue on schedule if such a stopgap measure passes. If not, construction will come to a halt at the end of the day Thursday.

According to a recent IDOT update, the contractor planned to work on the widening of Route 3 on the east side, installing pipe underdrains, placing rock subbase, pouring curb and guttering and paving an asphalt base course over the next month.

Work on the roundabout to be installed outside the Monroe County Farm Bureau office on Route 156 at Lakeview Drive is anticipated to begin sometime in August, IDOT said.

There’s also revenue received from establishments with video gambling machines that the state will not release to municipalities without a budget. Waterloo finance director Shawn Kennedy said the city would lose about $5,000 per month in revenue.

The school funding debate
Illinois has given much more attention to school funding than any other issue related to the budget impasse. At the same time, talk of passing a measure on school funding yields more contention between legislators than the rest of these issues.

“It is alarming that bickering in Springfield is endangering schools in Southern Illinois and across the state from being able to open on time,” State Senate candidate Sheila Simon (D-Carbondale) said.

The center of debate is the Chicago Public School District bailout that Madigan has continued to push. Meanwhile, Rauner has stressed time and again that he will oppose any legislation that attempts to give more money to Chicago schools, and hence limit funds going to other Illinois school districts.

“They’re talking about an extra $400 million for Chicago public schools,” Luechtefeld said. “That’s hard to swallow, especially if you’re down south.”

Waterloo, Columbia and Valmeyer schools will open their doors in the fall regardless of state funding. Columbia school superintendent Gina Segobiano said the district is fortunate that only 20 percent of its funding comes from the state.

Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron mentioned that local funding and reserves would get them through the first half of the upcoming school year.

Valmeyer school superintendent Eric Frankford said that under the worst circumstances, his school district’s working cash bond would be a saving grace.

In addition, Kelton Davis, Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education superintendent, said schools can wait for K-12 funding to pass until August.

“By August, if there’s no definitive resolution, we’ll be switching to a different resolve,” he said.

The State Journal-Register in Springfield released an editorial about the state’s inabilities to pass a current fiscal year budget, as well as a budget for the next fiscal year. The editorial appears on page 5A of this week’s Republic-Times.

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