Fall Veto Session Full of Potential, Promise but Lawmakers Still at Odds over Education, Finance Reform

By Thompson, Don | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Fall Veto Session Full of Potential, Promise but Lawmakers Still at Odds over Education, Finance Reform


Thompson, Don, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Don Thompson Daily Herald State Government Writer

SPRINGFIELD - State lawmakers' '97 fall session looks a lot like the Chicago Bears.

All the pieces may be in place, as coach Dave Wannstedt once infamously predicted, but it could still wind up being a lousy season.

The potential is there to dramatically change citizens' lifestyles, from how much they pay for electricity, to the quality of their children's education, to the way suburbanites commute to work each day.

But as legislators return to the state Capitol today for the first half of the six-day veto session, there are agreements in place in none of those areas.

Just a lot of potential, like the Bears.

"Some of those things could come together, or we could have a fizzle of a session," said Republican state Rep. Robert Churchill of Lake Villa. Like most of his colleagues, the former House majority leader is already preoccupied with next year's elections.

"My gut feeling is the first week we'll have a lot of chit-chat, and do vetoes and a lot of posturing," said Churchill, who is running for secretary of state. "But things could come together the second week," when lawmakers return for a final three-day session after Veterans Day.

Like the movie characters in "Groundhog Day," legislators seem doomed to relive the controversies of the spring session that ended in May, perhaps without learning anything from the repetition.

School funding tops their agenda now as it did five months ago.

Now, as then, "there's no agreement," reported Gov. Jim Edgar. "I would say we have good days and bad days in those discussions."

Legislative leaders agreed Monday to consider a proposal presented by Edgar's staff a month ago that includes a basket of small tax increases but no income tax increase or property tax decrease. The proposal would phase in a minimal school funding level over two years along with $1 billion worth of bonds for school construction.

The nearly $600 million annual price tag could be paid with tax increases on riverboat casinos, telephone calls, cigarettes, non-prescription drugs, newspaper and ink, and capping an incentive for vendors to pay their sales tax on time, although other taxes also are a possibility.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago said he was agreeable, and the proposal appears to resolve most of the objections of Republicans who balked at Edgar's proposed income tax increase. But it would take agreement by all four legislative caucuses to act immediately, and Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones of Chicago is opposed because it lacks property tax relief, and because the sales tax increases would hurt the poor. …

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