An opening in the state budget stalemate may come in the form of financial problems for the city of Chicago.
Speaking a town hall-style meeting in Decatur, Rauner hinted he may be able to use Chicago’s demands of the General Assembly—including $480 million in pension assistance needed by the beginning of 2016 to avoid large teacher layoffs at Chicago Public Schools—to get Democratic support on some of his own proposals.
“I’m cautiously optimistic because of Chicago’s financial challenges,” Rauner said. “They need some help in December. Maybe in December or January, maybe they’ll be enough incentive to compromise and we’ll be able to get something done, but I don’t know, it could be longer.”
Rauner maintains his demand for lawmakers to pass term limits, redistricting reform, and collective bargaining changes before he’ll agree to a tax increase for this fiscal year.
Chicago Public Schools had earlier sought help from state lawmakers to delay a scheduled $634 million pension payment in June, but no such assistance was given. Without some action on CPS pensions this time around, as many as 5,000 Chicago teachers could be laid off.
Rauner says any help for Chicago has to be “a two-way street,” mentioning he believes city interests dominate the state legislature and he’d like to see that dynamic change.