Illinois lawmakers approved a partial spending plan Thursday that would ensure schools stay open another year and give colleges and human service programs funding for six months, a rare bipartisan accomplishment but one that won't end the yearlong gridlock on a full budget.
The Democrat-led House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the plan and it's expected to get the signature of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on the last day of the fiscal year.
Democratic leaders and Rauner crafted the agreement after days of negotiations amid increased public pressure to avoid entering a second fiscal year without spending certainty. About a dozen Illinois newspapers used their front pages Wednesday to publish editorials demanding that the two sides strike a deal.
Before the 105-4 House vote, Democratic House Leader Barbara Flynn Currie acknowledged the plan doesn't solve that state's fiscal mess.
"It is meant to keep the lights on," she said.
Illinois is the only state in the country without a full budget for this year.
In all, lawmakers are agreeing to spend $25 billion in state and federal funds for the current budget year, and another $50 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Friday. Schools will get just over $11 billion to stay open for a full year.
The agreement also provides Chicago some relief on pension payments for teachers, an idea Rauner had resisted until Democratic lawmakers agreed to lower the amount they wanted.
But while schools and cash-strapped colleges and social service providers can breathe a sigh of relief, the partial spending plan also means both parties will face high-stakes elections in November to influence budget discussions in January when a new legislative session begins and money starts to running out.
Republican House Leader Jim Durkin said it would've been "atrocious" and likely spur a public revolt if lawmakers finished another fiscal year without a budget. He noted that even with the compromise, the ongoing budget standoff between Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature will be an election-year issue.
"Mark my word that it will be articulated in the fall by various entities," he said.
For 18 months, Rauner has demanded business-friendly, union-weakening laws as a condition for agreeing to a spending plan that would include a tax hike. Democrats say the governor's initiatives would hurt middle-class families and have nothing to do with the budget. The partial budget won't solve that ideological divide.
Under the plan, schools are getting over $500 million more in state aid than they did last year. There will also be a $250 million "equity" grant to help schools with low-income students. Chicago would get $100 million of that.
Part of the deal includes passing legislation to allow Chicago to raise $250 million in property taxes to help with teacher pension payments. A companion proposal will have the state cover $215 million in future pension costs beginning in June, like it does for all other Illinois school districts, but only if lawmakers pass legislation to reform the overall pension system.
Democrats initially wanted $700 million in pension help for Chicago.
The emerging plan calls for a $673 million increase for human services programs, including $20 million to restore programs that Rauner suggested eliminating.
There is also $1 billion for colleges and universities -- about 85 percent of what they received the last time the state approved higher-education funding.