This is a lame move by our Governor: according to this article in the Sun-Times, he isn't filling the vacancies on the Education Funding Advisory Board. Basically, the Advisory Board looks like it is in stasis. The last time their website was updated, Lisa Madigan was a state senator. Looks like the idea of an Educationg Funding Board that would tell the state in an official way what everyone has been saying for decades -- raise the 3% income tax to 4% and cut local property taxes -- is not quite what the Blagojevich Administration wants. That's off-message. Instead, put out the public perception that by cutting waste, fraud and Soviet-style regulations, we'll save our way to solvent schools. Whatever.
Unfortunately, the Advisory Board is the group that is supposed to come with the foundation level which is how much a decent education per child should cost. In 2003, the figure is $5665 per child per year to buy a decent education. In 2004? Who knows? The Advisory Board hasn't been able to come up with a figure, because the appointments haven't been made.
Senator Miguel Del Valle (D-Chicago), the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, calls this "strictly a political move" in Cindy Richards' article. And if he thinks it's a political move by the Governor, I believe him.
Intriguingly, Senator Rick Winkel (R-Urbana) is floating a new plan. Most civic types have gotten behind HB 750, which is mostly the product of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. Instead of trying to solve the structural deficit in state government by raising the income tax to 5%, hitting pension income above 75K, taxing services as well as good with the 6% sales tax, and then rebating 25% of all local property taxes paid, funding schools adequately and then balancing the rest of the state budget, Winkel is apparently trying a different approach. He dumps the sales tax extension to services and the pension income tax. He raises the personal income tax to 5% (I think) and the corporate tax to 8%. Then half that money goes back to rebate property taxes, and the rest is divided among schools -- including higher education.
It's the last part that might get more GOP support. Higher education ends up in lots of Republican districts, because our 12 or so campuses are spread around the state in rural areas. Higher education in Illinois has gotten totally hammered in the last two years, which is why tuition is going up so fast. (Thank you for that richest 1% tax cut, President Bush! Now the federal governments doesn't have any money left to support state governments, so they have to cut the budgets to state colleges, so they have to raise tuition on students, so on the margins, would-be students from struggling families can't afford to go. Ahh, the American Dream -- take from the working people to give to the rich. But I digress. . .)
Since higher ed is taking such a hit, if they get dealt into the education funding deal, maybe there are 72 Representatives and 66 Senators willing to support a 5% income tax if it means (a) lower property taxes and (b) both K-12 and higher ed get healthier budgets.
I've known Rick Winkel since he first ran for state representative in 1996, and he is one shrewd guy. He was one of the few Senate Republicans to vote for Blagojevich's big bond issue in 2003. My guess is he's got a better handle on what package could earn those 66 votes in the Senate than some of the non-elected civic types.
I'm looking forward to seeing how many co-sponsors jump onto his bill and if Senate President Jones signs on to it as well. The new session starts January 12th.