As Budget Looms, Illinois Gives Higher Education Emergency Funds

by | April 26, 2016

By Kim Geiger

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday signed into law a measure releasing $600 million for Illinois public universities and community colleges, money that lawmakers hope will keep campuses open through the summer while the broader budget battle continues.

The legislation landed on Rauner's desk Friday after days of behind-the-scenes wrangling at the Capitol, where some worried that the deal amounts to a funding cut for higher education while others tried unsuccessfully to add money for struggling social service programs. In the end, the two sides agreed to provide just the emergency funding for colleges, acknowledging it was a stopgap measure.

In a statement, Rauner said the bill "doesn't solve our budget crisis or help our economy grow, but it does represent a first step toward compromise between Democrats and Republicans."

"Now is the time to build on this bipartisan momentum and focus on enacting a truly balanced budget for fiscal years 2016-2017 alongside meaningful reforms that create jobs and free up resources for education, social services and infrastructure," Rauner said.

Rauner and Democrats remain deadlocked over a budget for state government for the year that began July 1. The state is not collecting enough money in revenue to cover its existing costs, and Rauner has said he won't negotiate with Democrats on ways to raise revenue to avoid making spending cuts unless Democrats first pass his pro-business, union-weakening legislative wish list.

That's left the state without full spending authority 10 months into its budget year, with public colleges and universities among the hardest hit and contemplating layoffs and closures.

(c)2016 the Chicago Tribune