Legislators rip Rauner as House OKs revised bill

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Two local legislators whose districts include large portions of the southwest suburbs voted to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of a bill to provide funding for Monetary Award Programs, or MAP grants, for college students.

Rauner vetoed a bill on March 2 that would have allowed up to $271 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students. While the Senate voted to reject Rauner’s veto, the House came up two votes short. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) said he no longer has a supermajority and cannot count on automatically resisting the governor.

However, the House came back last Thursday with a bill that would fund state universities, community colleges and social service programs. The House bill was approved 70-43 and would not only help fund aid for college students, it would provide money for low-income seniors and children who have autism.

“This administration made promises to more than 125,000 students that they would receive the MAP grant,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) regarding Senate Bill 2043. “What we did over a month ago was give the governor the opportunity to keep those promises. But the governor’s veto concerns me. There seems to be no intention to keep those promises and that will only deal irreparable damage to our integrity as a state.”

The House approved two amendments to the bill. One amendment would pay back $454 million that Rauner used from special funds to help pay for public grammar and high school students.

Some Republicans were angry that they were not aware of the revised measure. Rauner referred to the revised bill as just more “phony budgeting.”

Legislators will not arrive back in Springfield until next month, well after the Tuesday primary. The March 3 bill includes $397 million to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for MAP. Processing the claims for MAP will take at least four weeks.

A spokesperson for Rauner said that the governor will most likely veto the revised bill.

Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Orland and Palos townships in the southwest suburbs, said the community colleges should not be lost in the shuffle.

“We also have to consider community colleges in this situation,” said Cunningham. “Many of them have approved or will be approving faculty layoffs. These are faculty members that have an impact in the classroom and yet this governor has once again said no to ensuring that the classrooms are properly staffed.”

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), who voted for the Senate override, said that the state has a responsibility to provide motivated students with genuine opportunities in which Illinois reaps the benefits.

“It is infuriatingly unnecessary that in order to improve their prospects and make the most of their talents, many of our state’s young people find they must leave Illinois – if they have the resources to do so,” said Collins, whose district takes in large portions of Oak Lawn. “Too many do not. They live with the disappointment of a dream deferred, and meanwhile, our economic vitality, our quest for equality and our struggle for stronger communities wither on the vine.”

Collins said that the House and Senate have repeatedly voted to release funds for MAP grants. She said that the governor has consistently opposed them despite the pleas of students.

“Already, more than a thousand MAP grant recipients have been forced to stop going to class,” said Collins. “They simply cannot afford to foot the bill while the state fails them.”

The co-sponsor of the revised bill is state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th), the House majority leader. She said the bill would provide students with the funds they need to complete their education.

Rauner replied in a prepared statement after the House approved the amendments to their bill.

“Instead of considering any one of the real solutions that have bipartisan support to fund MAP grants and higher education, House Democrats passed a plan that isn’t paid for,” stated Rauner, who prefers a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-5th) that he said would provide $160 million in emergency funds.

Dunkin has been at odds with local Democrats for siding with Rauner on several issues. Madigan and most Democrats support his opponent, Juliana Stratton, in the Tuesday primary. In an unusual move, President Obama publically supports Stratton in the primary.