Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday left the door open to Chicago Public Schools receiving more state support a day after vetoing a measure that would’ve directed $215 million to the cash-strapped school system. Rauner said it appeared Democratic leaders were still willing to negotiating changes to the state’s underfunded pension systems, a condition Rauner said he wanted in order to for CPS to receive the designated $215 million.
“We need to go back to the table and work it out,” Rauner said.
Rauner vetoed the money for CPS after a meeting in Springfield Thursday with legislative leaders. The governor’s move means CPS could face the daunting task of closing a budget hole in the middle of the school year, even though the fate of the money had been in question.
It remains to be seen if Democrats in the state legislature will be able to overturn the governor’s veto. Democrats in the state Senate used their supermajority to override Rauner’s veto, but the chances of the state House overriding the veto are uncertain.
The House has only about two weeks to call a vote on overriding the governor’s veto. As of Friday morning, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had not scheduled a special session for an override vote.
Rauner said he vetoed the pension payment to CPS because the money was tied to an overhaul of statewide pensions. In response to his veto, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lashed out at Rauner for hurting the education of the city’s school children.
“My strong recommendation is that we tone down the rhetoric,” Rauner said Friday, when asked about harsh response from Emanuel. “Heated rhetoric doesn’t help. Getting emotional doesn’t help. Pointing fingers doesn’t help. Let’s stay mature. Let’s stay thoughtful. Let’s stay positive.”
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton disputed the claim that state pension reform and the additional funding for CPS were tied together and said talks about changes to state pensions were still ongoing.
“Just this week I presented a pension reform model to the governor,” Cullerton said in a statement Thursday.
Emanuel said he didn’t expect the governor would knock down the pension payment to CPS.
“The governor…never gave anybody a heads up about the veto because he just reacted and lashed out out of frustration on other items,” Emanuel told WBEZ Thursday from Mexico City, where he was attending a climate change summit. “He’s lashing out and that’s not the way to create steady, firm leadership.”
Both Emanuel and Claypool said they will lobby state lawmakers for their support.
Speaking to reporters at CPS headquarters Thursday, Claypool would not say what cuts the district would have to make if it does not get money from the state of teacher pensions. The district is required by state law to make its pension payment by June 30.
Rauner’s pension veto is the latest move in the ongoing battle between the rookie Republican governor and Democrats in the General Assembly. This feud has led to an unprecedented, 18-month-long budget impasse that has created an enormous backlog of bills and cuts to social service agencies.
Democrats blame the standoff on Rauner’s insistence that the budget be tied to his pro-business, union-weakening Turnaround Agenda. They have said the governor’s agenda and the budget should be separate, but Rauner has said his plan would implement structural reforms needed to balance the budget.
Rauner recently scaled back his demands to just two items in his agenda: a property-tax freeze and terms limits for state lawmakers.