Illinois Lawmakers Approve $3.9B for Colleges, Social Needs

  • Republican Governor Bruce Rauner expected to veto the measure
  • Rauner's deputy has called bill full of `empty promises'

Illinois lawmakers approved spending for higher education and social services on Wednesday, sending the bill to Governor Bruce Rauner, who is expected to veto the plan.

The Democrat-controlled legislature authorized the plan to spend about $3.9 billion on items including public universities, social services and scholarships for low-income students. The bill doesn’t have any way to pay for it, Richard Goldberg, deputy chief of staff for Rauner, said in a memo on Tuesday to members of the general assembly.

“Illinois does not have to be the laughingstock of the nation,” Senator Donne Trotter, a sponsor of the bill, said before the vote. “We do not have to be the only state left that doesn’t have a budget in place.”

Illinois is in its 10th month without a budget, and is the only state in the nation without a spending plan. While continuing appropriations, court orders and consent decrees have kept the state government from shutting down, higher education and many social agencies haven’t gotten paid, hurting students and Illinois’s poorest residents. Democrats have argued that Wednesday’s bill provides critical services and keeps universities from closing, while Republicans have touted their own plans to provide that money. Rauner is expected to veto the measure.

“This is just another phony budget opposed on a bipartisan basis in the General Assembly,” Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rauner, said in an e-mailed statement after the vote.“Now is the time for bipartisan solutions and negotiation, not phony budgets and empty promises.”

Kelly also pointed to Goldberg’s remarks to explain the administration’s view.

“That’s just another partisan spending bill filled with empty promises for students, universities, community colleges, social service providers and our most vulnerable citizens,” Goldberg said in the memo.

Republicans have proposed other ways to pay for colleges and social services, which they say provide funding to balance that spending. For example, Rauner has called for changes to Illinois’s procurement process to free up the money, or get the authority from the legislature to make other budget cuts. He’s also proposed a plan that would let the state keep money it’s borrowed from other funds that were earmarked for other purposes.

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