* Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State/Budget speech this past spring to call for the abolition of the legislative scholarship program. He was roundly booed by members. Quinn vetoed a reform bill last year because, he said, he didn’t think reform was enough. Abolition, he said, was the only way to go. Legislators passed another reform bill this year, which would bar legislators from handing out the scholarships to relatives and allowing them to turn over their scholarships to the Student Assistance Commission.
Quinn was asked about the program yesterday by reporters in the wake of revelations that former legislator Bob Molaro’s scholarship records have been subpoenaed by the feds. It sounds like he may use his amendatory veto powers to abolish the program this week…
“The essence of the bill on my desk is that it does not abolish the program, and that’s really what I think we have to do,” Quinn said. “I do want to make it clear that there’s no bigger supporter of scholarships than I am. I believe that we need to enhance our scholarship programs in Illinois, but I think having a program that’s had sort of a cloud of scandal around it for decades is not the way to do that.”
Quinn’s comments follow revelations that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents related to scholarships former Rep. Robert Molaro gave to children of longtime supporter Phillip Bruno. The Tribune reported last year that Bruno’s children received more than $94,000 in tuition waivers in recent years despite questions about their residence eligibility.
Even the bill’s chief sponsor wants Quinn to do an AV…
The legislation’s chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), urged Quinn Tuesday to tweak the legislation to provide for an outright abolition of the program — something that the governor has called for repeatedly but that has never gained legislative traction over the years.
“Rep. Molaro is the latest in a long string of questionable practices of a program that should have been abolished previously. He’s just one more in a string of abuses,” Dillard said.
“The governor, with his amendatory veto power, can rewrite the bill to end the controversial General Assembly scholarship program. Procedurally, we could kill this program in one day during the veto session,” Dillard said.
* Molaro background, in case you haven’t been keeping up…
[Molaro] previously told the Chicago Sun-Times that there was nothing wrong with the scholarships he awarded.
An April 26 subpoena to the Illinois State Board of Education from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald seeks application forms, nomination forms and other documents related to legislative scholarships granted to four children of a Molaro campaign donor.
A July 20 subpoena to the board of education asks for “all documents relating to the Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarships nominated/issued” from Molaro.
The Chicago Tribune reported last year that the Molaro supporter’s four children may not have been eligible for the scholarships because of questions about whether they lived in Molaro’s district.
* I asked the spokespeople for both Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan if their respective bosses believe the program should now be abolished.
From Cullerton’s spokesperson Rikeesha Phelon…
Senate President Cullerton has supported efforts to reform the system by specifically addressing the abuses, rather than abolishing a program that has provided educational opportunities for hardworking students in need of financial support.
So, count Cullerton as a “No.”
From Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown…
I think if you check the roll calls the Speaker has voted to abolish the GA scholarships repeatedly.
Kind of a “Yes,” but not really.