State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, visited Homewood village hall on Saturday to meet with constituents during Mayor Richard Hofeld’s weekly office hours.
Tawny Smith, Davis’ staff person for the 30th District, said of the handful of constituents who met with the legislator, the first question from each was about the budget.
Local lawmakers lauded the votes last week to finally end the two-year budget stalemate as a rare but welcome case of bipartisanship. Enough Republicans joined the Democratic majority to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the deal.
Davis said more bipartisan cooperation will be needed in coming months. There remain a number of big challenges that require immediate attention.
The first is a resolution to the school funding issue. A funding bill, SB 1, was approved by the legislature May 31, but it wasn’t sent to the governor’s desk right away. Rauner threatens to veto the measure, characterizing it as a giveaway to Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Davis, a chief sponsor of the bill, does not agree with that stance. He said the bill is more complex than that and includes provisions that bring CPS more in line with other districts in the state regarding pension obligations. He said the bill was designed so no district would lose money as a result, and that means CPS does get some benefits from it.
The bill has become especially important because the new budget deal includes a provision requiring a separate school funding bill, and SB 1 is currently the only bill passed by the legislature. Other options could be considered, but time is short.
“Unless there is one signed by the governor, no school district in the state of Illinois will receive funds” from the state, he said.
The legislature has 60 days from passage to send the bill to the governor, Davis said, so only a few weeks remain. Cooperation across the aisle would help, but Davis is not sure the bipartisanship from the budget deal will extend to the school funding issue.
“I think the rhetoric around it is still too strong for some members,” he said.
Davis also responded to questions about two issues of local concern: the possibility of legislation authorizing additional gaming facilities in the state and the question of funding for the renovation of Homewood’s train station.
He said there are signs of bipartisan support for the gambling initiative. The legislature attempted to authorize additional gaming facilities several years ago. Legislation made it to the governor’s desk in 2012 and 2013 but was vetoed both times by former Gov. Pat Quinn, who cited inadequate ethics protections in the bills.
Homewood and East Hazel Crest are interested in developing a casino on a tract of land south of Interstate 80/294, west of Halsted Street and north of 174th Street.
Homewood’s train station now has a plan for a major renovation project, which will be presented to the community Monday, July 10, at 7 p.m. by Metra representatives. But the next stages of the project, engineering and construction, do not yet have funding.
Hofeld and Homewood Village Manager Jim Marino discussed the issue with Davis, asking him about state funding opportunities.
“I think it’s something we need to start talking about,” Davis said. “There will be a capital bill at some point.”
On July 15, Ed Moody, 6th District commissioner on the Cook County Board, is expected to be available to meet constituents at village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road in Homewood. State Rep. Al Riley, D-Hazel Crest, is scheduled to appear on July 22.
The mayor’s weekly Saturday session runs from 9 a.m. to noon.
H-F area lawmakers say bipartisan effort ended state budget crisis (July 7, 2017)