PEORIA — No funding for local school districts by the end of the summer might finally be enough to bring an end to a state budget impasse entering its third year, a local lawmaker suggested Friday.
"I think that's the pressure point," state Sen. Dave Koehler said during a news conference at his Labor Temple office. " ... I think that if it takes closing the schools down in September to get this crisis resolved, then that's what it takes."
Last year, legislators passed only a partial budget, but funded schools for the full year; the first year of the impasse, Gov. Bruce Rauner approved funding only for pre-K-to-12 education.
Not putting such a package on the table this year could be enough "to force everybody to come to the table and resolve this thing," the Peoria Democrat said.
Closed schools would likely produce an immediate reaction from parents across the state forced to find alternate activities or care for their children during the course of the workday.
Preventing that could lead to more serious negotiation and willingness to compromise.
Koehler also said he opposes voting on another stopgap funding mechanism.
However, Koehler said that Senate Democrats did their job in passing a budget — along with a host of other bills associated with the so-called "Grand Bargain" package — and sending it to the House to be considered, albeit without GOP votes despite Republicans negotiating some of the original package.
He said he was "disappointed" that the House didn't hold votes on the package prior to the end of the regularly scheduled session, and suggested deep frustration with Gov. Bruce Rauner's warm-then-cold approach to the measures that include a two-year property tax freeze, workers compensation reform, local government consolidation authorization, pension reform and borrowing to pay down a $14.5 billion bill backlog.
"Seems to me that at some point we have to understand politics enough to know when to declare victory and move on," he said.
Indeed, Koehler suggested that Rauner might have been in a better position in his bitter, running battle with House Speaker Michael Madigan had the governor and Senate GOP supported the bargain bills.
"My sense of politics would have been that the best move that he could have made was to actually let the Senate pass the grand bargain (on a bipartisan basis) and put it over into the House and say, 'OK, (Speaker Madigan), what are you going to do with it?'"
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.