Three Takeaways From Springfield’s (In)Action On School Funding | WBEZ
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Three Takeaways From Springfield’s (In)Action On School Funding

Illinois Democrats are gathering in Springfield Thursday for a day of fundraisers and political speeches as part of the Illinois State Fair.

Republicans feted their party at Governor’s Day on Wednesday, but it was overshadowed by questions to GOP leaders regarding President Donald Trump’s recent comments about white supremacists.

On top of that, Illinois House Democrats just up the road had orchestrated a symbolic vote meant to deal a blow to Gov. Bruce Rauner in the fight over school funding.

Here are some key takeaways from the political shenanigans down Springfield way Wednesday.

Plenty of political theater...

Rauner partially vetoed a bill to change the way Illinois doles out education money to school districts. That’s created an impasse that threatens nearly all state school funding, just as a new academic year kicks off.

The political math means Democrats will have an impossible time overriding the governor’s changes to their funding bill as long as Republicans stick together - and so far, the House GOP is doing just that. So on Wednesday, House Democrats held a largely symbolic vote on a bill containing Rauner’s vision for education funding - a bill they knew would fail, given their majority in the chamber. It got zero yes votes. Republicans decried the vote as a “sham” and didn’t participate.

...but a school funding compromise? Not so fast

House Speaker Michael Madigan said lawmakers will return next Wednesday for an override vote. If lawmakers fail to override the governor’s veto, there’s currently no backup plan to get money to schools across Illinois, so they’d have to go back and hash out a new bill.

Negotiations are ongoing, but Madigan told reporters after Wednesday’s vote that he doesn’t trust Rauner and questioned whether the governor will ever be willing to reach a compromise on school funding. One key issue is whether Illinois should create a new “scholarship program” that critics liken to school vouchers. Republicans really want this, but Madigan says it’s unclear whether it’s a must-have for any possible deal.

The GOP Name Game

If you ask the Illinois GOP, Governor’s Day was about one name: Madigan. Stump speeches from candidates focused on how to oust the long-time House speaker and state Democratic Party leader. The governor even predicted Republicans could pick up nine seats next year so Madigan couldn’t be speaker any more.

But there was another name Republicans seemingly preferred not to talk about: Trump.

Rauner’s recent comments comparing the tactics of anti-racist protestors in Charlottesville, Va. to the white supremacists they were protesting has drawn fire from Republicans all over the country.

But after an equivocal response to questions about the violence there this week garnered swift Democratic criticism, Rauner came prepared Wednesday to address the president’s most recent comments.

“I vehemently disagree with his comments,” Rauner said, during a rare exchange where he actually mentioned Trump by name. “We have to condemn that sort of action. Those actions by - they’re frankly disgusting. Despicable. White supremacist groups - we have to call them that and we gotta condemn their actions.”

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