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New Higher Education stop-gap funding proposal signed into law

I’m pleased to report that finally emergency funding is on its way to universities, community colleges, and students waiting for their MAP grants.

The new plan passed last week and signed into law Monday is a bi-partisan effort on which I worked diligently. It will provide $600 million from the Educational Assistance Fund to fund a four- month emergency appropriation to universities and one semester of MAP grants.  The money is available, and Comptroller Munger said she will begin processing payments immediately.

After ten months without funding, our universities were drowning, but last week we worked together to throw them a $600 million lifeline. It’s not a permanent solution, but it is a solid emergency funding plan to get needed dollars to universities and ensure students get their MAP grants while we continue to negotiate a full budget.  I sincerely hope this spirit of bi-partisan cooperation will carry over to those negotiations.

Comptroller Munger issues order delaying lawmakers’ pay 

Based on the continued lack of a balanced budget for FY16, Comptroller Munger has directed her staff to move the issuance of paychecks for elected State officials from a group of bills that are paid immediately and on schedule, to a separate group of bills that are paid after a delay.  The move affects pay for all constitutional officers in statewide elective positions, including herself, and affects pay for the 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly – 118 House members and 59 senators.
Statement of State Representative Dan Brady on Passage of Senate Bill 2059 as amended:

“Despite a shaky start I’m very glad that a bi-partisan emergency funding agreement for universities, community colleges and students’ MAP grants has finally passed the General Assembly and Comptroller Munger has announced that she is standing ready to begin processing payments. After ten months without funding, our universities were drowning. Today we worked together to throw them a $600 million lifeline. I truly hope that we can build on this cooperative success at the budget negotiating table,” said State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal) who serves as Minority Spokesman on the House Higher Education-Appropriations Committee.

 Representative Dan  Brady visited with WJBC's Scott Laughlin Thursday morning about several budget and session related issues. Listen-in here.
“I’m very pleased that we are discussing a new proposal  in the General Assembly to provide needed stop-gap funding for Universities. The new plan, authored by my colleague Rep. Mike Fortner, would provide $558 million from the Educational Assistance Fund to fund a four- month appropriation to universities and one semester of MAP grants while we continue to negotiate a full budget. Let’s get this done.” Rep. Dan Brady
Local Lawmakers Renew Call for Compromise on Higher Ed, Immediate Return to Springfield

Normal, IL – At a press conference in Normal today, area Republican lawmakers emphatically reinforced their willingness to compromise on the issue of Higher Education funding.  Local Representatives and Senators stressed that there are numerous viable proposals still on the table that Democrats have so far refused to consider. 

“Our higher education funding crisis has reached critical mass. Students, universities, and community colleges need emergency funding now to get through the rest of this fiscal year, but the vetoed MAP bill and the new, largely unfunded appropriations bill pushed by Democrats are shams, not solutions,” said State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal), who serves as Minority Spokesman on the House Higher Education-Appropriations Committee. “There are real, viable alternatives on the table, including House Bill 4539 that I am sponsoring, which the Speaker has so far denied due process in the House.”

House Bill 4539 would reasonably fund MAP grants, community colleges and four-year universities.  However, unlike the Democrat proposal on MAP funding (SB2043) or the newly proposed $3.7 billion spending plan (HB648) Republicans are calling for a funding stream tied to any proposal that advances.   

“There are a multitude of reasonable proposals on the table to fund higher education and offer our universities hundreds of millions in savings,” said State Senator Jason Barickman (RBloomington). “Speaker Madigan and his lawmakers have not only rejected these plans out of hand, they’ve now shut down their chamber for the rest of the month.”

Senate Democrats have refused to allow Republican higher education funding proposals from even being heard in committee. Senator Barickman, Senator Bill Brady and their colleagues have offered legislation to both fund MAP grants, community colleges and four-year universities, as well as provide $500 million per year through much-needed procurement reforms.

“Illinois students and universities are at a breaking point.” said Senator Bill Brady (RBloomington). “Last week I introduced SB 3380, which is one of the many viable, responsible higher education funding proposals put forward by Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly. I urge Democratic legislators to work with us on one of these real, reasonable proposals instead of pushing forward with false promises.”

In the House, Democrats refused to debate any workable higher education funding alternatives prior to breaking for the entire month of March.  At the conclusion of House session last Thursday, Republicans made a motion to bring the legislature back the following day.  The motion, despite being completely in line with the rules, was ruled out of order with Democrat leadership.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who determines the session schedule, put in place a four-week gap in the month of March. The House is not scheduled to be back in session until April 4th.

“We’re in the middle of a very real crisis and Speaker Madigan broke his own House rules to avoid considering our motion to stay in Springfield and work. Democrats then hastily voted to adjourn and skipped town for an entire month,” said State Representative Tom Bennett (RGibson City).  “We want to work together on funding for higher education, for service providers, and for the new budget as a whole, but we can’t do that with the entire House Democrat Caucus on a four-week vacation.”

On the heels of the Senate’s override of the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2043, House Republicans from across Illinois joined together to reiterate their willingness to compromise and arrive at a responsible solution to fund Illinois’ higher educational community. 

“Today’s veto override in the Senate is unfortunate given we’re all here today to reiterate our willingness to compromise on this issue to bring about a reasonable solution,” said State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal), who serves as the Minority Spokesman on the House Higher Education-Appropriations Committee.  “We can’t continue down the road of calling adversarial votes that don’t benefit students or universities.  It will only further the divide in Springfield.”

The group of legislators cited several bills that have been presented including Rep. Brady’s House Bill 4539 which sought to reasonably fund not only MAP grants and community colleges, but also the operational budgets of our State’s four-year universities excluded from the Democrat proposal. 

“Repeatedly, we have heard from our four-year State Universities that their priority is receiving Operating Funds in order to continue their services without major interruption. SB 2043 did not include any Operating Funds for State Universities,” said Norine Hammond (R, Macomb) who represents Western Illinois University.  “We must have a comprehensive solution that funds higher education. There are multiple bills with funding sources attached.  These bills combined are the start of a solution. We are here to strongly advocate for compromise in order to resolve this urgent issue.”

During the original debate on Senate Bill 2043, House Republicans noted the oversimplification of the Democrat sponsor Kelly Burke’s explanation of how exactly the State of Illinois would pay for the MAP grants and community college payments.   They took specific exception with the implication that the Illinois Comptroller could simply prioritize the spending. 

“With $32 billion in revenue already spoken for through court orders, consent decrees and continuing appropriations, simply passing an appropriations bill without funding solutions is completely disingenuous,” said Representative Tim Butler (R, Springfield).  The math is pretty simple; troubling, but simple.”
Governor delivers budget options to General Assembly

 Governor Bruce Rauner addressed a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly last week, laying out his budget priorities and options to achieve a balanced spending plan that meets our families’ and communities’ needs.  The Governor stressed that education is and will remain his top priority, proposing record state support for our children’s schools and also for early childhood education. I was glad to hear the Governor confirm that he will continue to keep our children above the budget fray.

For the rest of state spending, he offered two plans to finally balance our budget; one that includes spending reforms and one that relies more heavily on spending cuts. He stressed that his preferred budget is one that is “responsible and compassionate,” but also stressed that we cannot continue to spend more than we bring in in revenues.

I believe the Governor is committed to reaching a reasonable solution to the devastating 8-month long budget stalemate. He has offered real options for putting together a balanced budget, and again urged our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us to get it done.

I would like to know what you think about the governor’s budget proposals.  Please  answer my “weigh in” question in the right hand column of the main page of this website.

Real higher education funding option still on the table

On Friday, the Governor vetoed a bill supporters claimed would allocate needed state funding for community colleges and student MAP grants. Senate Bill 2043 was vetoed because it was a funding bill with no actual funding attached. In other words, it was an empty promise.  Our community college, university and student budgets are stretched beyond their breaking point, and more empty promises won’t help. 

The good news is that there is still a real, workable proposal on the table to fund higher education for the remainder of the fiscal year. I am the chief House sponsor of House Bill 4539 which would provide approximately $1.68 billion to provide adequate funding for universities and community colleges, and would fully fund students’ MAP grants at last year’s level.  And, unlike the proposal that was just vetoed, House Bill 4539 specifies an actual path to deliver the funding utilizing existing revenues. It would work in tandem with legislation that would afford the Governor the ability to manage monies in existing funds to adequately fund programs including higher education.

So far, Speaker Madigan has denied House Bill 4539 due process in the House. In the coming weeks I look forward to working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to change his mind.

In addition to providing proper funding, I’m also sponsoring procurement reforms that will help save universities money by freeing them up from costly regulation. House Bill 4644 will give flexibility to higher education institutions when purchasing goods and services, saving an estimated at $159 million per year.

House passes controversial arbitration bill, but measure does not attain veto-proof majority

The House last week again took up legislation that would make complicated changes to public-sector labor law; the changes are aimed at giving a strategic advantage to certain labor unions, especially AFSCME, that represent workers in state government.  I strongly support all of our state workers, and so I have serious concerns with legislation that would drastically change the rules for both sides in the middle of contract negotiations.

While I continue to have strong misgivings, House Bill 580 was sent to the Illinois Senate for further debate. The measure received 67 Democrat votes in the House, but 71 votes will be necessary to override the Governor’s expected veto.

New survey puts Illinois next to last for middle-class taxpayers

A recent survey places Illinois at the bottom of states that are tax-friendly to the middle class.
According to personal-finance website WalletHub, the Illinois tax burden as a percentage of middle-class income is 11.30%, with more than one dime from every dollar of nominal income going to pay income, sales, property, and other levies.  For a middle-class family with household income of $70,000, the annual burden of taxes calculated by WalletHub is greater than $7,900.  That’s more than $31 in taxes levied upon a typical Illinois middle-class household in every work day!  

The Illinois tax burden upon the middle class, according to WalletHub, is the 50th worst among U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  The ranking of 50th out of 51 renders Illinois next to worst for taxation quality of life as a member of the middle class.  New York scored 51st.  All of Illinois’ neighboring states, including Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin, outscored the Prairie State. Missouri was especially dramatic in its superiority over Illinois in the table, with the 22nd highest tax burden within the 50 states on its middle-class residents.   

This is yet more proof that struggling families here in Illinois can’t take another tax hike.

Pro-jobs votes highlighted

I am proud to say that I recently received a 100% rating from the Illinois Manufacturers for my House votes in support of growing and maintaining good jobs in Illinois. My thanks to the IMA for continuing to highlight the importance of improving our jobs climate for our families and communities!

As always, you can contact me via webform here on my website.