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Illinois governor vetoes funding bill for Chicago teachers pension fund

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday vetoed a bill to improve funding at the $9.5 billion Chicago Public School Teachers’ Pension & Retirement Fund with an additional $215 million state contribution in fiscal year 2017.

The Illinois Senate already voted 36-16 to override the veto. A House vote is forthcoming.

The additional state funds, up from the $12 million contributed the previous fiscal year, were intended to help cover active teachers in Chicago Public Schools in the fiscal year that started July 1.

The Illinois Legislature approved the additional funds in June as part of a temporary six-month budget for fiscal year 2017.

At the time of the bill’s passage, Mr. Rauner said he would not sign off on the additional funds without more comprehensive pension reform for the state and local governments. He stood by those comments in his veto message on Thursday: “The election is over. Despite my repeated request for daily negotiations and hope to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of next week, we are no closer to ending the (budget) impasse or enacting pension reform.”

Illinois has been operating without a full budget since July 1, 2015.

As of June 30, the Chicago teachers’ pension fund had a funded status of 52.4% on an actuarial basis.

The Chicago Public Schools’ fiscal year 2017 budget passed in August relied in part on the additional state contribution to reach its $733 million required employer contribution.

The governor’s veto “is both reckless and irresponsible, and make no mistake, it’s our children who will pay the price,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an e-mailed statement. “The governor is lashing out, imperiling the systemwide gains earned by Chicago students and teachers, and proving just the latest example of his willingness to put the burden of his failures on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, whether it’s schoolchildren, college students, seniors or those living with disabilities. This is no way to run a state.”

Charles A. Burbridge, the pension fund’s executive director, agreed that the governor’s veto was disappointing, and noted that there is still an opportunity for the full Legislature to override the veto.

Barry B. Burr contributed to this story.