WebExtra: Jones, for now, in Blagojevich’s corner

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State Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D-Chicago) is backing away from a tax plan championed by advocates of school funding reform and now says he favors Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proposal to boost education spending.

Following the governor’s budget address on March 7, Jones unequivocally backed Blagojevich’s plan to impose a so-called “gross receipts tax” on businesses to raise more revenue for the state, including an additional $1.5 billion for schools next year. Jones called the governor’s proposal idea is a better way to generate more cash for schools.

Jones stopped short of saying the alternative plan, known as Senate Bill 750, is dead. But he implied as much, saying he would call only one tax increase plan—the governor’s—for a vote before the Senate this session. SB750 would raise more money for schools and for local taxing bodies to provide grants for property tax relief, by raising income taxes and expanding the sales tax.

Blagojevich last year proposed selling the state’s lottery to raise money for schools, but now favors a lottery sale to bale out cash-strapped pension funds.

Blagojevich’s proposed $1.5 billion would raise the per-pupil foundation level by $686, to $6,020—still short of the benchmark $6,405 recommended by the Education Funding Advisory Board two years ago. The panel was supposed to update its recommendation in January, but Blagojevich has refused to convene it for a meeting – essentially thwarting any recommended increase.

The governor also proposed a $1.5 billion school construction program in his address.