Pension aid for Chicago schools vetoed amid budget standoff

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed $215 million aimed at helping with Chicago Public Schools' pension payments on Thursday, a move that Senate Democrats voted to override as negotiations on an overdue state budget broke down again.

Using its supermajority, the Senate quickly voted to overturn Rauner's move, but the Illinois House had yet to vote on the override attempt early Thursday afternoon.

The parties had agreed to that funding in June on the condition that lawmakers would work on a separate plan to overhaul a statewide pension system that's more than $100 billion in debt.

That agreement was part of a six-month spending plan to get the state through the end of the year while lawmakers and the governor negotiated a longer-term budget after the November elections. But Rauner vetoed the funding immediately after Democratic Senate President John Cullerton denied Thursday there had been a deal in June.

"Breaking our agreement undermines our effort to end the budget impasse and enact reforms with bipartisan support," Rauner said in his veto message to lawmakers.

The country's third-largest school district has a "junk" status from credit agencies and was counting on the money to pay the employer's contribution to teachers' pensions. CPS is the only Illinois district where local taxpayers, rather than the state, pay the employer's contribution and Democrats have argued that's unfair.

"I'm shocked and disappointed by his actions today," Cullerton said in a statement.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel accused Rauner of "lashing out."

"This action is both reckless and irresponsible," Emanuel said.

Illinois has been without a budget for 18 months amid an ideological standoff between Rauner and majority Democrats. Both sides have been meeting this week but have made no progress.

As part of a budget deal, Rauner wants Democrats to enact pro-business legislation, consider term limits and put a permanent freeze on property taxes. Democrats have said Rauner should drop his demands and focus on a budget without pre-conditions.


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