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Quinn again calls for eliminating legislative scholarships

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


36 Comments
  1. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 7:43 am:

    Stick a fork in this program, it’s done.


  2. - JustaJoe - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 7:50 am:

    Razzle-Dazzle with small stuff.


  3. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 7:53 am:

    It is time to end this program. While most members did a good job and picked laudable recipients, there is still too many questionable practices. Better use the resources to increase general scholarship funds at the Universities.


  4. - MeAgain - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:17 am:

    Ok let me get this straight; It’s wrong to give political supporters scholarships, but right to reward them with appointments to jobs that pay 100k plus?


  5. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:23 am:

    MeAgain,

    It’s okay for a governor to bring in his team, as long as they are competent to complete their tasks. If they are found wanting, they should be removed by those who placed them in their positions. The press and watchdog groups should monitor these appointees closely. And voters should take these people into account in the voting booth.


  6. - Esquire - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:42 am:

    How hard would it be to legislate some type of objective criteria for a high school student to obtain such a scholarship on the basis of academic merit? Put an end to the friends and family members nonsense and let deserving students compete for the scholarships. If the legislature does not want to adopt rules, then abolish the scholarships.


  7. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:43 am:

    Get rid of it, put those scholarships into a needs/merit based program instead. In fact, I’d even support breaking it up by legislative districts just as it is now, just keep the legislators from doing the picking.


  8. - frustrated GOP - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:47 am:

    If we use the similar test of misuse of a program, how many programs in the State would we have? I guess we would have to get rid of the governors office.
    This program isn’t a bad program, we simply need to remove some of these people who don’t get what it means to be a good State rep or Sen.


  9. - MrJM - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:49 am:

    Get rid of it, put those scholarships into a needs/merit based program instead.

    Or even a lottery. In fact, almost any system would be fairer — and a better use of the funds — than the current legislative scholarship system.

    – MrJM


  10. - Bonsaso - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 8:59 am:

    The program costs the universities money. It’s a perk to legislators that should go. Anyone who received a scholarship but didn’t reside in the right district should have to pay the money back. The program needs to go.


  11. - mokenavince - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 9:25 am:

    Only friends of our Aristacart politicans recieve
    them , so dump the program.Start all over and let
    regular citizens choose who gets the scholarships.


  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 9:25 am:

    These are not scholarships, they are tuition waivers that all taxpayers foot the bill for, not just the voters in a legislator’s district, same as the monetary award program. If you want to make the field more equitable, make the tuition waiver a no interest loan to the student not based on family income. If the student does not graduate with a degree or certificate within a specified time, then tack interest onto the loan.


  13. - GMatts - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 9:55 am:

    Wow. Quinn really nails the small stuff. Now, if he could actually make/keep big decisions which favor the middle class.


  14. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 9:56 am:

    Let’s just say the scholarships aren’t exactly need-based. I know two wealthy families whose B students were awareded these waivers. Just another fresh cut of pork that should be jettisoned.


  15. - Fed up - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 10:22 am:

    Maybe someone could call for the end of silly state boards so Quinn doesn’t get to hand out jobs to political donors or friends and family of his allies.


  16. - Responsa - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 10:42 am:

    One small step…. You go Quinnie! Maybe you’ll start to get the hang of this and find you enjoy the praise and appreciation you get from regular Illinois taxpayers by showing some leadership and responsibility. Yes. The eternally clouted and scandal-ridden “Legislative scholarships” need to go.


  17. - Both Sides Now - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    I wholeheartedly agree these “legislative scholarships”/tuition waivers should be abolished. But while we’re at it, how about abolishing the same perk for the children of state university employees. Why should we pay for their children to go to college? I’m a state employee and you’re not picking up the tab for my son. And please don’t say, “well, it’s part of their compensation package…”. The state university employees are for the most part union employees who are making a very nice salary. Why should they earn a $20,000+ annual perk on top of that?


  18. - mcbroke - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    Both Sides Now — my thoughts precisely!


  19. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 11:13 am:

    Get rid of them for everyone associated with government. They foster an entitlement attitude among our public servants.


  20. - Seriously??? - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 12:29 pm:

    This is the same crap that goes on with “legislative grants” (earmarks). Which I think have been curbed somewhat but are probably still well hidden in the budget somewhere. Legislators cherry pick programs in their districts that they want to give money to without any formal process or oversight. These scholarships are the same thing.


  21. - Deep South - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 12:51 pm:

    Both Sides Now,

    Do yourself a favor. Check out the facts about the “waivers” for children of university employees. Maybe then you won’t come off sounding so ignorant the next time you post something about this. And as for employees being, “for the most part union employees,” well, that’s just the icing on your ill-informed, drive-by comments.


  22. - Ray del Camino - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 1:23 pm:

    Right–

    What children of university employees get (after having been there for at least seven years) is half-off of in-state tuition at any public university they can get into. That is most certainly *not* the “same perk.” It is also definitely not $20,000 a year. I’m trying to figure out how someone could honestly get to that figure.


  23. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 1:36 pm:

    Quinn AV’s just a couple of minutes ago.


  24. - mcbroke - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 1:44 pm:

    Deep South and Ray del…………I’d like to be educated on the waivers. I agree half off in-state tuition isn’t $20,000.00 per year, but it’s over $20k for four years. Who makes up the half-price tuition? My neighbor who makes just at $100k/yr has sent all four of his children thru U of I at half price……….even he can’t tell me how this works……….”it’s just the rules.” If the tax payer isn’t paying the other half of the tuition, then I guess all who are residents of IL qualify for half-price tuition. Right?


  25. - Deep South - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    McBroke,

    Yes, it is half priced tuition for children of university employees who have been working at their university for at least seven years. Fees are not discounted. So for four years, we’re talking about $15,000 in waivers. No real tax dollars go to pay this…universities just lose the revenue. Of course, as stated, they still collect the fees. Yes, the kids of union plumbers, electricians and building maintenance staff are offered this benefit….as well as non-union staff…those who work in the library or at university research facilities, etc. You know, the everyday people who are ripping off the taxpayers with their high salaries. But then again, upper administrators and the faculty who teach the students are eligible, too.


  26. - mcbroke - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 2:27 pm:

    Didn’t mean to hit a nerve Deep South. Honestly wondered. But I still question why this perk is necessary. When the university loses revenue, don’t they just pass this loss along to those of us not qualifying for the waivers? My point is, why have legislative scholarships, tuition waivers, etc. But the responses here well illustrate why nothing is getting cut — in State of Federal government.

    sorry Rich, I realize this has gotten way off point.


  27. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 2:42 pm:

    “The eternally clouted and scandal-ridden “Legislative scholarships” need to go.”

    Along with feeding funds to greedy friends’ and family’s “businesses”.


  28. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 2:47 pm:

    And setting each up for pensions and high-paying jobs within government.


  29. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 2:49 pm:

    This link might help on the uni employee tuition waiver policy questions

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=University+of+Illinois+employee+tuition+waiver


  30. - Deep South - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 4:11 pm:

    McBroke….I understand what you’re saying, and yes, the debate is over whether these waivers should continue. My beef is with the mis-information that was posted….seems to me that we should know the facts before the issue can be properly debated.


  31. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 4:11 pm:

    Here is a straightforward situation that aches for a stern hand to lead. It is an easy call - even PQ says he wants it done. An AV can make it disappear. PQ pulls that off he looks decisive, forthright, yes - even populist. GO FOR IT PAT!


  32. - Just The Way It Is One - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 4:28 pm:

    Just like the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the whole lately..it’s goin’ down….Memo to the Gov. and Legislature: “SELL!”, ‘cuz this particular program–although it may have benefited some very worthy kids in years past–has just too often reeked of political favoritism and on the whole to the average Joe Q. Public, just always had a rancid smell to it….


  33. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 9:47 pm:

    Quinn’s on the side of the angels here.

    They’re not “scholarships,”, which implies some merit for tuition being paid by the state to the university. They’re waivers granted by political warlords for any reason they choose in which the schools get nothing.

    Go ahead, GA members, bloviate about the injust of getting rid of this medieval nonsense. It should be a litmus test; if you’re for it, you should be out.


  34. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Aug 10, 11 @ 10:16 pm:

    G-D those legislators, behaving in ways we don’t approve of. If only there were elections so the ones who misuse the program could be replaced. Remember the immortal Pogo!


  35. - JustMe - Thursday, Aug 11, 11 @ 8:59 am:

    Last year I was unemployed and going through bankruptcy. My daughter was and honor student, election judge volunteer, church volunteer, and held a part time job. She received a scholarship from Sen. Pamela Althoff. Had this not happened, there is no way we could have paid her tuition. Reform it, don’t kill it!


  36. - Jennifer - Thursday, Aug 11, 11 @ 9:37 am:

    Oh no !
    What will the rich kids do? Work?
    Probably not…..
    Probably end up at one Illinois many CASINOS.


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