Rauner adamantly rejects state bailout for Chicago schools
Gov. Bruce Rauner says there is no chance a Chicago Public School bailout would be a part of any future negotiations between him and legislators, who are entering their second year without a long-term state budget agreement.
In fact, he suggested CPS should solve its own broken and untenable structure by reorganizing under bankruptcy protection laws.
“You should not be forced to bail out that broken system,” Rauner told members of the Illinois Taxpayers’ Federation at their annual meeting in Chicago.
Rauner said some Democratic leaders, even before the stopgap budget was approved to fund essential services through January, had floated the idea of tying a CPS bailout to future budget talks.
The governor said CPS, which like the state of Illinois and city of Chicago is facing a budget crisis that includes massive pension under-funding, has created many of its problems and shouldn’t expect the state’s taxpayers to come to its rescue.
“They’ve proven they squander their money and they’ve proven that they will get politics in the middle of it,” he said.
He said the state already gives CPS an “extra” $260 million in block grant funding and pension support, and that even that money is mismanaged.
Rauner said he thinks going through a bankruptcy reorganization would help CPS, as it would allow it to address system flaws and renegotiate less-expensive teachers’ contracts.
He said if that idea is distasteful, there still are the options of increasing city property taxes to address CPS shortfalls, or flat out renegotiate expensive union contracts. He ruled out any budget deal at the state level involving a tax-funded bailout of CPS.
The governor said state Democrats are trying to create service crises to force his hand in budget negotiations and drop needed structural reforms, and that the tactic is dangerous for Illinois residents. He reiterated his pledge to reject any budget proposal that wasn’t balanced and didn’t include his reforms.
As for the state, Rauner said it would not move out of its morass until a “balance of power” is restored among state leadership.
“Our system is rigged and set up to maximize the benefits to the people inside the government,” he said, “Not the taxpayer or the recipient of service. It’s a broken system. We’ve got to change the structure and give taxpayers an equal say in the policies and structure of the state.”
He said he also will continue to keep taxpayers in mind in his negotiations with the state’s unions, many of which have already finalized agreements with the state. He said most of the deals included stable funding and no employee raises, but offered incentives for those who could produce verifiable savings.
He said future deals with state workers should be based on worker productivity, not seniority.
Meanwhile, Rauner said his administration continues to find ways to cut fat from the state’s budget. He said he already has proposed $800 million in operational cuts and plans to offer $4 billion more in the coming months. But he said his administration couldn’t do it alone.
“I need to have the General Assembly help me with the transformation,” he said. “We can’t back down on this. The future of the state is on the line.”