Eight months without a budget has left about 200,000 students in the cold and other state services without money.
The ongoing budget impasse has left the legislature trying to find a way to compromise with Gov. Bruce Rauner after he vetoed funding for almost everything except K-12 funding.
Rauner has vetoed all of the bills that have passed through both the House and the senate that involve funding higher education.
The Illinois House of Representatives looked over and approved two bills that could help bring the budget impasse to an end.
The two bills originated in the House. House Bill 2990 involves funding higher education, social services, and local school construction. House Bill 0648 gives bill 2990 the funding platform it needs while forgiving the obligation Rauner has to repay the money he had borrowed back in June.
Steve Brown, the press secretary for Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, said the $454 million Rauner borrowed was left over from the money that came to the state for special reasons.
“The state has a whole bunch of funds and money sits in those funds, usually, the money comes to us for special reasons,” Brown said. “It doesn’t all get spent every year so under the law the governor has the ability to borrow some of that money to use for paying bills or whatever is needed, but he has an obligation to pay it back.”
Brown said some of the members of the House and Senate mentioned that Rauner would support the idea of forgiving the repayment and the House saw the opportunity to compromise and meet Rauner half way.
HB2990 is a piece of legislation described as a “gut-and-replace” amendment that would give appropriations for the 2016 fiscal year that currently do not have any funding.
When the 2016 fiscal budget was being negotiated, Rauner put a 30 percent cut to higher education, but the general assembly countered with a 6.5 percent cut.
If the bills are signed into law, there are different appropriation amounts that would go to all of the colleges and universities.
For Eastern, passing these bills with the cuts would give appropriated funds of just over $40 million, compared to the 2015 fiscal year when Eastern received almost $43 million.
The Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grants would also be appropriated to the public and private universities and students who receive them.
The bill would fund community colleges at the same level that was part of the budget passed by the general assembly in May.
Brown said there is no clear understanding of why Rauner would not fund higher education.
“It is a real mystery of what he is trying to do,” Brown said. “Why would he fund kindergarten through high school but not colleges and universities?”
HB2990 also funds Human Services, Senior Services, Public Health Services, Regional Transportation Authority, Military Affairs, Drycleaners Environmental Response Trust Fund Council, Illinois Housing Development Authority, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, and Illinois Power Agency.
Rauner vetoed the funding for these services and agencies in May along with the funding for higher education.
The last part of HB2990 involves paying school districts back for state-operated construction programs.
“Those are elementary or unit schools that built buildings or qualified for state reimbursement that have not received them,” Brown said.
HB2990 passed with 70 votes for the bill, 43 against the bill, and one that abstained from voting.
HB0648 passed with 61 votes for the bill, and 52 votes against the bill.
Rep. Reggie Phillips (R) voted on HB2990 but did not vote on HB0648.
The bills will now move to the Senate where they will be voted on. The Senate is scheduled to be in session on Tuesday, March 8th.
If the Senate chooses to pass the bill as well, they will be delivered to Rauner, where he has 60 days to either sign them into law or veto them.
Brown said he does now know what will happen if the bill makes it to Rauner’s desk.
“For those of us who are concerned about funding universities and colleges and other things, we will cross our fingers and hope he supports it,” Brown said.
Mackenzie Freund can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]