Lawmakers postpone action



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—The Legislature’s fall veto session opened Tuesday only to have leaders postpone action on the session’s most pressing issues: Chicago school finances and riverboat casinos.

Legislative leaders planned to adjourn the House and the Senate on Wednesday, one day earlier than scheduled, and reconvene Oct. 26 for a three-day session to deal with the remaining issues.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said the Chicago Teachers Union told him teachers would reject a school-rescue plan if lawmakers approve it before union members can consider it.

The Chicago Democrat said he wants action on riverboat gambling in Cook County when the Legislature reconvenes, but nothing can pass without Gov. Jim Edgar’s full support.

But Edgar told reporters he should not be counted on to lobby for riverboat casinos.

‘‘It’s not my responsibility nor my plan to push a riverboat bill for the city of Chicago and Cook County,’‘ Edgar said. ‘‘I am willing to work with them and see a proposal that I could accept and that I could sign into law.’‘

On the school front, the teachers union and the Chicago Board of Education reached a tentative agreement Saturday on a new two-year labor pact. Under the deal, the school system’s $298 million deficit would be erased by a combination of teacher concessions and borrowing.

Major elements—borrowing $110 million from teacher pension funds and issuing $300 million in bonds backed by local taxes—would require three-fifths’ approval of the Legislature to take effect immediately.

‘‘The Chicago Teachers Union has explained to me that they promised that the members would be consulted thoroughly and that they would participate in any decision,’‘ Madigan, D-Chicago, said.

Theunion plans a contract vote next Wednesday or Thursday. U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said he will allow the schools to operate without a balanced budget until the Legislature acts.

Edgar said the proposed teacher contract was ‘‘a step in the right direction’‘ but could not win legislative approval until further unstated refinements are made.

Edgar praised the language governing borrowing from the teacher funds.

‘‘I think what’s very important is that it’s borrowing that will be paid back,’‘ he said. ‘‘My understanding of how it was agreed is that it would be about as secure as anything could be.’‘

Retired and active teachers, who do not want their pension funds touched despite pledges that borrowed money would be repaid, lobbied both chambers heavily in past weeks.

A school-rescue plan pushed through the Senate by Senate President James ‘‘Pate’‘ Philip last month avoided tapping into teacher pension funds. Madigan won’t call the plan for a House vote because it would not take effect until next year.

‘‘Our (Republican Senate) members liked the package we sent over to the House,’‘ said Mark Gordon, a spokesman for Philip, R-Wood Dale. ‘‘Anything you do to weaken that package is going to lose Republican votes.’‘

Republicans suggested that Madigan was stalling on the Chicago school issue because he doesn’t have the votes to pass the tentative agreement.

Madigan said he will negotiate with state officials on issues not covered by the contract agreement—such as an inspector general for the school system. But issues settled between the school board and the union should be off limits to state officials, he said.

Edgar said he was hopeful an agreement can be restructured without new negotiations being required in Chicago.