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.”