From Illinois Business Journal news services
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois General Assembly passed a bipartisan measure Friday that would free up emergency funding for Illinois schools like Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“I am happy that we were able to come together and get this immensely important piece of legislation done,” said State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton. “We voted to make sure that students such as the ones who attend SIU in Edwardsville will continue to be taken care of through MAP grant funding. This funding will help SIUE to continue to attract students throughout the Midwest, and continue its role as a key economic driver within Southern Illinois.”
Senate Democrats sent Gov. Bruce Rauner Senate Bill 2046 earlier this month which also includes funding for higher education and MAP grant funding, as well as things like social and senior service programs.
“What remains frustrating is that the governor has a budget on his desk that would have already funded higher education and fixed this impasse,” Haine added. “We cannot continue with this back and forth. The governor needs to sign the bill that is on his desk.”
Senate Bill 2059, which would release funding for higher education, passed the Senate Friday and now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration. Governor Rauner has said he plans to sign the legislation.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, introduced a stopgap human services and higher education budget that passed without opposition in the Senate, moments after the chamber approved a compromise the House had just approved to release emergency funding to colleges and universities, including Chicago State University, which was expected to shut its doors on April 30 due to the lack of state funding.
“The bipartisan compromises are extremely encouraging and will enable Chicago State, other struggling colleges and universities and many social services agencies to keep their doors open while we continue negotiating,” said Steans, who chairs one of the Senate’s budget committees. “But it’s important to realize that while today’s action was the right step forward, it’s only the beginning of restoring Illinois to fiscal health and rebuilding our social services infrastructure. We are viewing these measures not as a destination, but as a bridge to a complete, sustainable and responsible budget.”
Both Senate Bill 2059, which now goes to the governor’s desk, and Senate Bill 2047 include partial funding ($600 million) for community colleges, public universities and MAP grants that help low-income students afford higher education. Senate Bill 2047 also releases almost $450 million to fund human services – from addiction treatment to meals for senior citizens to homelessness prevention – that have languished without state funding since last July 1. Many social services agencies have been forced to close their doors, lay off staff, cut back on hours and/or turn away clients. Many others continue to provide services even though they are not receiving reimbursements from the state.
The money appropriated in the two measures would come from the Education Assistance Fund and the Commitment to Human Services Fund. A percentage of income tax revenue is set aside in these two funds.
House Speaker Michael Madigan released a statement Friday following House passage of a plan that will deliver emergency funding to the state’s public universities, community colleges and MAP recipients to avoid school closures:
“Governor Rauner has said that crisis creates opportunity and leverage, and that government may have to be shut down for a while. Now, he has forced a situation where some universities are on the verge of closing. The plan the House passed delivers emergency relief for the state’s colleges, universities and students as we continue pushing for a more comprehensive budget and full fiscal year funding.
“While the governor has said he would approve this small portion of funding for higher education, it’s unfortunate he was unwilling to approve any further funding for human services. If he continues his unwillingness to assist our human service providers, he will be successful in destroying the safety net for those most in need and for critical state services, including services for women who need breast cancer screenings, victims of child abuse and victims of sexual assault.
“I am hopeful the governor sees the funding in this higher education package not as a solution, but as emergency assistance to those most in need. Time will tell if Governor Rauner has further intentions of destroying our state institutions and human service providers, or if he will begin working with us to craft a full-year budget that is not contingent on passage of his demands that will destroy the middle class.”
The Office of Governor Bruce Rauner issued the following statement on the passage of SB 2059 attributable to Press Secretary Catherine Kelly:
“By passing this bipartisan agreement, lawmakers in both chambers put aside political differences to provide emergency assistance for higher education, ensuring universities and community colleges remain open and low-income students can pay for school. We are hopeful the General Assembly will build on this bipartisan momentum in the weeks ahead as we negotiate a balanced budget with reform for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017.”