THE LOOP — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Friday urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to "tone down the rhetoric" after Chicago officials harshly criticized the governor for blowing a $215 million hole in the budget of Chicago Public Schools.
Rauner's veto of a bill that would have provided pension help means that Chicago schools could face midyear cuts for the second year in a row — unless, in the next 15 days, the Illinois House joins the Illinois Senate and overrides the governor's decision.
"It is my strong recommendation we tone down the rhetoric," Rauner said after addressing the annual conference of the Illinois Manufacturing Association. "Heated rhetoric doesn't help, getting emotional doesn't help, pointing fingers doesn't help," Rauner said.
However, late Friday Emanuel called Rauner's action — which the governor said he made because Democratic leaders had not done enough to solve the state's pension crisis to reach a long-term deal — "fundamentally wrong," especially in light of the governor's support for a bill that Emanuel said would "bailout" energy giant Exelon.
The governor's action threatens the academic progress made at Chicago Public Schools during the last several years, Emanuel said.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool Thursday accused the governor of holding Chicago's 400,000 school children "hostage" to his political agenda.
Rauner "reneged on a promise to Chicago's students and parents" and is using "innocent" children as "pawns in a political game," Claypool said.
Rauner on Friday called for city officials to "stay mature" and acknowledged that the changes he is asking for are "hard."
Rauner blamed Illinois Senate President John Cullerton for torpedoing a compromise inked in June that allowed schools to open in September. Part of that deal promised Chicago schools an additional $215 million to help cover its pension obligations — in return for statewide "pension reform," a long-held goal of the governor.
"We need to go back to the table to work it out," Rauner said.
Rauner said he planned to meet with Cullerton Saturday and Sunday and would continue to negotiate a "bipartisan" budget deal that addresses the root causes of Illinois' financial crisis.
After his veto Thursday, Rauner had said he would not sign the bill because it would amount to a "bailout" for CPS.
"Without reforms to solve our structural problems, taxpayer money would continue to be wasted on bailout after bailout," Rauner said.
School district leaders have declined to say how they would make ends meet without the additional money. CPS, which has a low credit rating, would be hard pressed to borrow the money, forcing the officials to impose cuts at schools across the city or raise taxes.
Rauner and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan have been locked in a bitter fight over the Illinois budget.
The governor wants lawmakers to adopt his agenda, which he says will spur business growth in Illinois as part of a budget agreement. Democrats have refused, and the impasse has lasted nearly two years.
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