August 28, 2017 / 11:02 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-In second vote, Illinois House approves school funding bill

(Recasts with House approval of the bill)

By Dave McKinney and Karen Pierog

CHICAGO, Aug 28 (Reuters) - A bipartisan bill to fund public education in Illinois passed the state House of Representatives on Monday less than two hours after the chamber soundly rejected the measure needed to send $6.7 billion in state aid to 852 school districts.

The House voted 73-34 to send the bill negotiated by the General Assembly’s four legislative leaders to the Senate, which meets on Wednesday.

If passed by that chamber, the bill would head to Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who was on the House floor shaking lawmakers’ hands following the successful vote.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate passed an earlier version of a school funding formula bill in May that Rauner extensively rewrote under his veto power. Without a method to distribute state aid, Illinois was prevented from sending state payments to school districts as classes began.

While the Senate overrode the veto on Aug. 13, an override attempt in the House on Monday fell short of a three-fifths majority requirement. Afterward, the House revisited the bipartisan bill it had earlier rejected and voted to approve it.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said the bipartisan bill provided the same permanent promise of more funding for schools contained in the vetoed bill.

“Through compromise, we’ve included some provisions that many members would not have supported on their own,” he said in a statement.

One of those provisions contributed to the bill’s initial defeat in a 61-46 vote. Opponents objected to a tax credit program to fund $75 million annually for private school scholarships, which teachers unions derided as an effort to introduce school vouchers to Illinois.

“Like it or not, because of our two years of budget impasses and an accumulation of $15 billion in back bills, this state needs to be on a tight fiscal diet for years to come,” Republican state Representative David Harris said in a debate on the House floor.

The unprecedented impasse, which ended with the enactment of a fiscal 2018 budget in July, ballooned the state’s unpaid bill backlog to more than $15 billion.

Illinois has already missed two state aid payments due schools. Credit rating agencies have warned that districts that have slim reserves and are heavily dependent on state aid, including the junk-rated Chicago Public Schools, could face financial pressure and potential rating downgrades from an extended school funding impasse.

Earlier on Monday, Chicago’s school board approved a $5.75 billion fiscal 2018 budget that counts on an additional $300 million in state aid under a new funding formula.

Reporting by Dave McKinney and Karen Pierog; Editing by Richard Chang and Peter Cooney

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