Legislature overrides Rauner veto of school funding reform
Steve Stadelman was among lawmakers from both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly who last week rejected the governor's attempt to rewrite historic legislation to reform the way Illinois funds public education. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of SB 444 threatened to stall implementation of a more equitable school funding formula that relies less on property taxes, a system that favors wealthy communities with fewer at-risk students.

SB 444 proposed simple technical cleanups to the original reform legislation that had received bipartisan support and that Rauner had signed into law. The governor, however, tried to insert substantive changes including an expansion of the new Invest in Kids program to provide tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships.

Rauner's failed bid to amend the legislation only stalls the release of $350 million in new funding for classrooms, said Stadelman, noting that public schools in Rockford and Harlem benefit under the new formula. Despite the veto override, he said, the Rauner administration is now citing additional technical discrepancies that could continue to hold up distribution of money to schools.

Stadelman reacts to governor's annual speech
Illinois senators returned to Springfield last week for the start of the 2018 legislative session, a week during which Bruce Rauner delivered the State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. Senator Steve Stadelman says the speech was once again long on empty promises and short on detail.

“While the governor laid out broad ideas, he failed to present a plan to accomplish them," Stadelman said. "In each of the last three years, we have seen the governor present extensive goals but fail to achieve them due to combative, partisan politics. It’s my hope the governor will finally be able to present a balanced budget that will attain bipartisan support and bring our state back to financial stability.”
•    Video response to State of the State address

Keep on chugging, Stadelman urges passenger rail group
stadelmanrailforumSenator Steve Stadelman encouraged the efforts of a citizens group trying to resurrect passenger rail service between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa, but also warned of obstacles and advised that identifying funding is key.

Chief among those obstacles, Stadelman told representatives of Ride the Rail, is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who pulled the plug on a $233 million project to bring train services from Chicago to Rockford when he took office in 2015. Stadelman worked with former Gov. Pat Quinn to get the project, first announced in 2010, back on track after negotiations broke down with one of two possible rail lines.

Ride the Rail is campaigning to "Bring Back the Blackhawk" by renewing interest in passenger rail from Chicago to Iowa through Rockford, Freeport and Galena. Stadelman said he firmly believes in the value of train service in stimulating the local economy but reminded the group of Illinois' current financial trouble and pointed out that trends in passenger rail involve public-private partnerships, with public money coming from local, state and federal sources.

Stadelman commended Ride the Rail for helping keep public conversation on the issue alive and expressed dismay that a recently released Federal Railroad Administration proposal for development of a Midwest passenger rail network omits Rockford.

"It won't be in the next year or two, but passenger rail will happen eventually," Stadelman said, "and we can't afford to remain off the grid."
•    WIFR-23 report