SPRINGFIELD – The Democrat-controlled Illinois House and Senate passed an amendment to SB 2045 along party lines Thursday. The appropriations bill assigns $721 million dollars to the Monetary Assistance Program and the State’s community colleges. ]
There was one big problem, however – it has no funding source and it makes no appropriations for universities – and despite what the majority led people to believe, students having to pause their higher education will not be relieved.
After the Dems passed the bill Thursday in Springfield, State Rep. Margo McDermed quickly disbursed an explanation as to why she opposed the measure.
"Our backlog of unpaid bills sits at over $7 billion dollars. It is an accounting fallacy to say that the passage of this legislation means that money will make it to our students," she said. "Every day the Comptroller’s office has to make the difficult choices as to what payments the state can make to services and agencies because we have more money that needs to go out than we take in."
McDermed said that the bill’s sponsor admitted during debate that it would be up to the Comptroller’s office to make the decisions regarding priorities because these new appropriations would crowd out important social services, programs, and providers.
"It is an abdication of our authority as the body responsible for crafting a budget to put the onus on an already overwhelmed office," McDermed said. "For these reasons, I did not vote for SB 2043. I wholeheartedly believe that we need to fund our higher education institutions and make sure every young Illinoisan can afford to get the education they deserve. I do not believe that this bill is the way to go about it."
House Bill 4539, filed by Rep Brady, funds not only MAP and community colleges, but also the state’s public universities, the New Lenox lawmaker said.
"Together with HB 4521, it also provides a revenue source by granting similar flexibility to the Governor that he was given with the bipartisan FY15 budget fix. It would give the Governor’s office the ability to manage funds and resources to adequately fund programs including higher education," she said.
East Peoria's State Rep. Michael Unes said the bill's passage is a cruel and gives false hope.
“This is a cruel game and it is giving false hope to our current college students because without the support of both the legislative and executive branches, the bill will not pass and the funding will not be released—certainly not in time for the spring semester. It gives even further false hope to younger students who may very well not have access to these funds for the duration of their college career due to the absence of a funding resource. ” Unes said.
“I support MAP grants and I support a bill that provides funding for them. This bill is nothing but a political game designed to make a select group of politicians look good at the expense of our students and the state’s future, while unfairly depicting another group as unsympathetic towards our youth. It is exactly what is wrong with the current environment in Springfield.”
In response to the higher education funding crisis, Rep. Unes supports a bill that not only provides funding, but also a high degree of long-term certainty for our state’s current and future students. It is Unes’ position that neither is possible without a budget.
“Sadly, there just isn’t trust and certainty right now in Springfield,” Unes said. The games need to stop and all sides need to get serious, act like adults, and collaboratively work together on the budget impasse,” Unes added.
State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) also shared her thoughts on the bill.
“I’m saddened that another piece of legislation filled with false hope was shoved through the House today,” said Wheeler. “I’ve heard from so many students in my district who have worked very hard, done all the right things and earned a MAP grant to pursue their college education, they don’t deserve to be duped with false hope like this.”
Wheeler continued, “The simple fact is that this legislation is a lie and a counter proposal, HB 4539, which would have funded all higher education institutions with money we do have, wasn’t even considered. Without rebalancing our state budget, we don’t have any way to pay for their proposal and ensure hard working students will be able to go back to college in the fall. What we need to do is take the remarks from the Governor to heart, drop the partisan wrangling, step-up and come together to pass a reformed and comprehensive budget that funds all the programs people in Illinois rely on.”
The Illinois House roll call:
The Senate consensus: