Illinois Republicans are balking at a Democrat-backed plan to provide $721.5 million in state funding to community colleges and the Monetary Award Program (MAP).
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office has recommended that he veto the legislation when it arrives on his desk due to a lack of state revenue and cuts to offset the cost. The bill cleared both chambers Thursday. Since the bill is likely to be vetoed by the governor, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) called its passage by Democrats "a cruel hoax" on college students who have yet to receive their MAP grant.
Funding for MAP, the state's need-based grant program that helps low-income Illinois students pay for tuition, is caught up in the nearly eight-month-old budget battle. Higher education appropriations have also been frozen during the budget standoff. The situation has school officials warning of dire negative impacts to the state's higher education system, including a possible shutdown of Chicago State University in March. In addition, many students who depend on MAP haven't returned for the second semester due to the uncertainty around their tuition assistance.
Republicans proposed their own higher education spending plan totaling $1.6 billion. The bill would cover spending for four-year universities, in addition to community colleges and MAP. Democrats oppose the measure because it is tied to provisions to that would give the governor greater authority over the budget during a fiscal crisis.
The Republican proposal would essentially provide Rauner with "unprecedented and king-like powers to play around with the budget any way he wishes," Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) told the Associated Press.