Rauner: Madigan wanted to ‘kill’ CPS pension delay bill — Madigan vows to try again, calls Rauner ‘not helpful’

SHARE Rauner: Madigan wanted to ‘kill’ CPS pension delay bill — Madigan vows to try again, calls Rauner ‘not helpful’

An effort to delay a $634 million payment to be made by Chicago Public Schools to the teachers pension fund by June 30 hit a snag Tuesday but still has a last-minute chance to pass.

The bill that Illinois House members failed to approve by a three-fifths vote Tuesday will be recalled by Speaker Michael Madigan the day the payment is due.

City and school officials had wanted CPS’ day of reckoning postponed for another six weeks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders believed they had hammered out an agreement that would have put off the payment until Aug. 10. Not coincidentally, the new deadline was the same date that state school aid payments are expected to be forwarded to school districts statewide.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Rauner pinned the defeat squarely on Madigan.

“Governor Rauner and Republican leaders supported this legislation, but the Speaker had Chicago Democrats vote against it. The only reason the Speaker’s Chicago caucus would vote against the Mayor’s bill is because Madigan wanted to kill it,” it read.

Madigan, though, said the deal ”just didn’t get enough votes to pass,” and added he’ll work to secure the votes.

“I’m sure it can be done,” said Madigan, who hopes to persuade lawmakers the bill is “the right thing to do.”

Madigan accused the governor of “operating on the extreme.”

“Issuing extreme press statements in the middle of the consideration of the bill is not helpful,” Madigan said. “It’s not helpful. It’s not how you do things in the Legislature.”

When Emanuel was asked during an appearance Tuesday on WTTW’s Chicago Tonightwhat happened to the agreement, he said, “Welcome to the mystery of the legislative process.”

The mayor said he’ll be working to get the bill passed next week because the six-week reprieve will give leaders time to “work through a more permanent solution”

The discussions of what that will be is “ongoing,” he said.“In all my conversations, whether with the executive branch or legislative leaders of both parties, there’s an understanding that we have a system today and a funding mechanism that’s not fair to Chicago teachers, Chicago students and the taxpayers of Chicago,” he said.House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie, D-Chicago, asked her colleagues “for the school kids, for the teachers, for all of the things we care about when it comes to education system, to help the Chicago Public Schools find long-term and short-term solutions to its fiscal problems.”

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, who also supported the bill, said the CPS’ inability to make the pension payment isn’t a “new revelation” and urged a property tax increase to help alleviate some of the pressure.

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, questioned how time would lead to a solution, saying, “I’m not sure what six weeks does that can’t be done in six days frankly.”

Emanuel: CPS ‘at the breaking point,’ can’t make pension payment without classroom cuts

Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, though, said she voted “no” because it’s “unacceptable” to help Emanuel out, amid what she called a lack of resources for her constituents. She said Emanuel was re-elected on a pledge he’d “fix the problems.”

“You can’t fix it by pointing the finger at Springfield and expect us to fix the problems that you’ve created — when you look at the police brutality, and the payouts and the lawsuits that are going on.”

Tuesday morning, CPS Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz appeared before legislative committees, saying the cash-strapped district was “being forced to decide, are we making payroll” or the pension payment?

Afterwards, he said that “we need our leaders to come together so that we have enough time to reach a solution. We have been very clear about why action is needed: CPS will be unable to operate schools properly and meet our pension obligations without a long-term education solution.”

Just in case, the Board of Education is expected on Wednesday to approve some $1.135 billion in borrowing against future tax revenue.

Emanuel said a “six-week reprieve” could buy time for the General Assembly to solve long-term education funding and end the “dual taxation” that forces Chicago taxpayers to pay twice: once for the pensions of city teachers and then for retired teachers outside Chicago.

“It gives us the time to work through the issues of, what I view as the structural inequity that exists. As I said to the governor and state leaders, ‘We’re now at … a breaking point. You have to work with us to find a way to meet the obligations to our teachers in the same way you meet the obligations to the teachers around the state.’”

The Chicago Teachers Union likened the “mini pension holiday” to “putting a tiny piece of gauze on a hemorrhaging wound,” spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said.

“If there is any light at the end of this tunnel, we want to make sure it’s not an oncoming train,” she continued.

Chicago Teachers Pension Fund head Charles Burbridge expressed disappointment that lawmakers considered a delay. But Burbridge wasn’t totally critical of the proposal, saying it “could have been worse.”

Contributing: Becky Schlikerman

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