Illinois legislative leaders are praising a short-term plan to help struggling universities during the budget impasse, though both sides are bickering about its meaning and how to move forward.
Lawmakers approved a $600 million higher education fix Friday as the budget impasse between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature reaches its tenth month. Already, some universities have had layoffs, and Chicago State University had expected to close its doors.
The measure will give community colleges 27% of their funding for the current fiscal year. Most universities will receive an average 31% of funding, while 47% of the proposed budget for MAP grants will be paid.
The Senate unanimously approved the deal Friday after House members voted for it 106-2.
Rauner has announced he will sign the measure, which provides a one-time infusion of money thanks to a surplus in a state education fund.
State Comptroller Leslie Munger says she has directed her staff to begin processing payments immediately, giving top priority to students and the institutions that are suffering the most. The Education Assistance Fund currently has $354-million of the $600-million needed to fund the bill on hand. The comptrollers office will continue disbursing funds as they become available, with final payments being made in July.
Local State Senator Dale Righter was very encouraged by the passage of the bill.
“This legislation gets critical dollars to Eastern Illinois University and other institutions in dire need of funding right now,” he said. “Students currently enrolled, or those looking to enroll in Illinois universities and community colleges, and employees can look to this legislation as a confidence booster that the Illinois legislature can work together to get things done. “I am encouraged by this legislation as it sets a good tone going forward that we can work in a bi-partisan fashion.