Half of the 2009 fall veto session is now on the books and one
legislative priority lawmakers identified before they trekked down to
Springfield -- funding for the Monetary Awards Program (MAP) -- has
been partially resolved. Yesterday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law
Half of the 2009 fall veto session is now on the books and one legislative priority lawmakers identified before they trekked down to Springfield -- funding for the Monetary Awards Program (MAP) -- has been partially resolved. Yesterday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law that gives him the authority to restore second semester funding for the need-based scholarships received by almost 140,000 college students. Earlier in the year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission voted to eliminate grants for the entire spring 2010 term when it became clear the General Assembly was going to substantially reduce their budget.
Where that money will come from to reinstate the funding unfortunately remains a mystery.
Legislative leaders decided last week not to approve any new revenue to support ISAC, instead forcing Gov. Quinn to borrow. Specifically, he announced a plan to collect $1 billion from some of the state's roughly 600 "special funds" and devote one-fifth of that cash to the grants. Although the additional money must be repaid to its rightful agencies in 18 months, Quinn could use the windfall for "unmet needs" in the interim, possibly even paying down the state's backlog of medical bills.
Like most economic decisions made in Springfield these days, this "solution" isn't a sustainable one. The way our current tax system is structured, Illinois just doesn't generate enough money to pay for core services (like college aid) and the state's overhanging debt obligations. Until that is reformed, new problems will consistently arise. The Sun-Times drives the point home in an editorial today:
So where does this leave us today? How do we pay for scholarships, Medicare, public education and the rest?
By adopting a new tax system -- one that includes a tax increase and a new approach that places a greater burden on the rich than on the poor. For decades, Illinois has had one of the country's most unfair, regressive tax systems, charging everyone the same rate whether you make $1 million a year or $40,000 a year. [...]
Illinois needs a new tax system -- one that treats lower earners more fairly and generates more income. Until we get it, we'll keep romping in dreamland until the state goes broke.