Lawmakers must reach agreement soon on a new state budget because public schools need a clear idea about how much money will be available for education, school board members from across Illinois said Tuesday.

Lawmakers must reach agreement soon on a new state budget because public schools need a clear idea about how much money will be available for education, school board members from across Illinois said Tuesday.


 


“It is difficult to do our job when the Illinois General Assembly does not finish theirs,” Chris Slowik, board president in North Palos School District 117, testified at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee.


 


Martha Ross, vice president of the Peoria School District 150 board, said, “It’s hard to know how to staff if you don’t know what kind of budget you have.”


 


“I hope that the universal message (to senators) from all of the members that spoke was that we really need to settle the budget and get on about our business,” Ross added after the hearing, which was the second of five the Senate has scheduled for this week.


 


But after a month and a half of legislative overtime, state government still lacks a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. A one-month budget that expires at the end of July has spared state government from shutting down so far.


 


Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders have not convened for a budget-negotiating session since Friday. Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said smaller working groups were meeting Tuesday, and that a leaders’ meeting is planned for today (Wednesday).


 


The governor sent a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan, House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson, accusing them Tuesday of blocking a proposal that would use some new gaming revenue to fund education.


 


“Now that you have effectively taken gaming off the table, I am asking you ... to consult with your caucuses and identify potential revenue sources for education that you could support without raising taxes on people,” part of the letter read.


 


Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said: “We had $400 million in new education spending in the budget the House passed on May 30. We’ll remind him of that.”


During floor sessions Tuesday, the Senate met for less than a half-hour and the House worked for about an hour.


 


One of the items the House considered was a resolution that calls for the governor to “reside in Springfield ready to negotiate” during the General Assembly’s overtime session.


 


Rep. Sandra Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn, sponsored House Resolution 507, saying: “I think it’s needed now because we are in the middle of a crisis.”


 


Some Democratic lawmakers objected to the resolution, calling it frivolous and saying it unfairly targets Blagojevich.


 


The resolution was adopted on a voice vote, despite disagreement over whether a majority had shouted in favor of the measure.


 


“Mr. Speaker, you weren’t listening clearly,” Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, told Rep. Gary Hannig, who was presiding over the House at the time. Dunkin said he had heard a “resounding no” when the resolution was called for a vote.


 


Dana Heupel of GateHouse News Service's State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.