By FRAN SPIELMAN
City Hall reporter
Mayor Rahm Emanuel bemoaned the cuts Gov. Pat Quinn proposed Wednesday for education funding in a proposed 2014 state budget, where one in every five dollars would be consumed by skyrocketing pension costs.
Emanuel noted that his own “kids-first” 2013 budget managed to hold the line in taxes, fines and fees and still make a major investment in pre-school, after-school, summer jobs and eye care programs for children.
“Budgets are a reflection of values…We’re investing in our children. Those are the right choices for the future. We made choices–tough choices, but we put our kids at the front of the line to get the first set of resources,” the mayor said.
If that sounded like a thinly-veiled criticism of Quinn, it shouldn’t.
The mayor said he’s well aware that 19 percent of next year’s proposed budget goes to pensions in Illinois and that means “you’ve got to make changes that adversely affect” the state’s school children.
The governor’s $35.6 billion budget blueprint for the state fiscal year that starts July 1 calls for $400 million less in spending for public schools and universities, a direct result Quinn said of lawmakers failing to solve Illinois’ $96 billion pension crisis.
“I don’t think the governor relishes this. I know he doesn’t. I know his values. My view is, let is show the political will around the pensions and health care, so we don’t look at our kids and start cutting. That is the wrong future,” Emanuel said.
“There are states like Florida right now that are increasing their investment in education. Now, which state, which children, which families are gonna have a brighter future?….I said when I did my budget that if we do not reform pensions, we’re gonna make a set of choices that are wrong for our children and wrong for the future,” the mayor said.
“And I do not think we should balance the budget on the backs of our children. I understand all the difficulties associated with making reforms to pensions. But, those difficult choices pale compared to the difficult choices of balancing the budget on the backs of our children,” he said.