A $600 million measure to fund the state's public higher education institutions through the summer garnered Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature Monday.
The short-term funding bill, approved by state lawmakers Friday, is set to provide $356 million for public universities, $74 million to community colleges and nearly $170 million to the Monetary Award Program. MAP is the state's needs-based tuition assistance program for low-income college students.
"This legislation doesn't solve our budget crisis or help our economy grow, but it does represent a first step toward compromise between Democrats and Republicans," Rauner said in a statement. "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 and Democratic lawmakers have yet to reach an overall budget agreement for the 2016 fiscal year, which began July 1. At the center of the impasse is Rauner's anti-union, pro-business policy agenda, which the governor wants approved as part of the budgeting process.
Also on Monday, House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a memo to House Democratic Caucus members, reiterating his prediction that Republicans may consider the stopgap higher education funding measure to be "a final action on higher education." Madigan pointed to public comments made last week by the chamber's GOP leader, which suggested additional higher education funding is unlikely in the current budget year.
Here is Madigan's memo:
Mere hours after the House of Representatives passed a small stopgap funding package for higher education last Friday, the Decatur Herald & Review reported the following:
However, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the funding approved Friday could end up being all that universities receive for the current fiscal year.
"I'm not quite sure we can get anything else done on higher ed," Durkin said.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Durkin also said:
"The only thing I've made a commitment with is to work with the Democrats on human services."
The House minority leader's comments confirmed my predictions about what legislative Republicans and Governor Rauner would do if Senate Bill 2059 moved forward and passed in the form it did. I shared with you in our caucus meeting, among other concerns, that I wanted to continue fighting for a bill that included greater funding for our universities, community colleges and MAP grant recipients to sustain our institutions of higher education for a longer period of time for the very reason the minority leader expressed: I believed the Republicans may consider Senate Bill 2059 a final action on higher education. However, a number of those involved in the negotiations on Senate Bill 2059 felt that was not the case and that the bill was only the first step in a larger agreement for higher education.
In a statement I released last Friday, I expressed hope that Governor Rauner would not see this funding as a final solution to higher education as I had feared, but would begin working with Democrats to craft a full-year budget that properly funded higher education and human services. While I will continue fighting to ensure a full budget is passed for higher education, the House minority leader's comments just hours after the passage of Senate Bill 2059 do not leave me optimistic that will happen.