CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Wednesday signed into law a school funding bill that marks the first fiscal 2016 budget bill passed by Democratic lawmakers to be enacted.
The Republican governor and leaders of the Democrat-controlled legislature have been battling over the budget for the fiscal year that begins in a week. Democrats passed a $36.3 billion budget with a more than $3 billion revenue hole that Rauner has refused to address unless lawmakers adopt his so-called turnaround agenda.
Rauner said he signed the education funding bill to ensure schools open on time and teachers get paid.
“I refuse to allow (House) Speaker (Michael) Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform,” the governor said in a statement.
The lack of state funding levels for the upcoming school year put districts in a bind. The Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third largest public school system, said it was unable to craft its own spending plan without having a state budget in place.
Rauner said while the bill increases primary and secondary school funding by $244 million, that amount is less than the $312 million hike he sought in the budget he proposed in February.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Andrew Hay)