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GOP Rep. proposes “stopgap” plan for higher ed

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* While Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) and I were chatting the other evening he mentioned that he and Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) had been talking about a stopgap funding plan for colleges and universities. I asked him to write it up and here it is…

Higher education in Illinois is in crisis. The state has not appropriated basic operations money to the state universities this year. As a result one institution is preparing to close on May 1 and others cannot guarantee that they will be open when students return in the fall. May 1 is also the day when students traditionally must decide where they will attend in the fall. If students are uncertain about the future of our state universities, they may not plan to attend. Waiting longer to fund our universities may come too late to get those students back. There are three things we can do now to help this crisis.

First I propose that we utilize the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) as a stopgap to fund the universities through August. The EAF will have about $600 million left in it at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. August is an important time since that is when students return and revenue from tuition, room and board comes to the universities. In SB 2046 (J. Cullerton/Currie), the total appropriation for ordinary and contingent expenses for the state universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy is $1,079,180,600. This represents a full year appropriation, but there was no identified revenue to pay for it. An equivalent expenditure for four months from May 1 to August 31 would be one third of that, $359,726,867.

Second I propose that we provide one semester of MAP grant funding to help keep Illinois students of limited means at college in Illinois. SB 2046 also appropriates $397,073,100 to provide the MAP grants. Half of that to fund one semester would be $198,536,550. Combining the four-month university appropriation along with one semester of MAP grant funds comes to $558,263,417. This can be funded entirely from the EAF this fiscal year.

Finally I propose we give the universities relief from some of the procurement code. This has been a request from the universities long before the current administration and would be expected to save many millions. Modifying HB 4644 (Brady) to affect just the universities would provide this kind of relief and help the universities better manage their budgets while the state seeks a full long-term solution.

Of course the best outcome would be a full budget for all agencies. But anyone following the budget impasse in Illinois reads about the lack of trust among the leaders. A full budget is difficult at best in this environment. The General Assembly successfully took a more limited approach in December, appropriating money for cities to take care of snow removal and pay the lottery winners along with a long list of other activities. The General Assembly can take that approach again and move past this crisis in higher education.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - IllinoisBoi - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:02 pm:

    It’s a little jarring lately to hear a politician sound like a sensible adult. Good work Mr. Fortner.

  2. - Higer Ed - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:03 pm:

    A temporary fix is not the answer but something needs to happen soon, very soon.

  3. - Annonin' - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:08 pm:

    Little surprisin’ Fortner wants the purchasin’ loopholes back on the books.

  4. - Scamp640 - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:09 pm:

    Wow. Given the untenable situation confronting higher ed, any resolution is welcomed. And while this is far from perfect, this solution seems so, what is the word I am looking for… reasonable?

  5. - Chucktowner - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:14 pm:

    What are the chances this will happen? We need something good to happen soon–we’re starting to panic in the Chuck…

  6. - walker - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:16 pm:

    Have always found the ==”save many millions”== claims for relief from the procurement code, to be like the “waste, fraud, and abuse” saves in Medicaid. Not very substantial.

    Whatever. Fortner’s a very smart and ethical guy, who’s trying to hold something together.

  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:17 pm:

    EAF will end up with over 600M committed to it (closer to 800M) by the summer and to not spend ALL of that money on Universities and Community colleges is to essentially steal it from their appropriations they expected in FY16. This potential deal is promising, but if Universities are only going to get 4 months worth of FY16 AND they are going to add procurement to this deal, then there is WAY more money to actually give to universities. Further, if universities are not given cash in trade for procurement it will target the budget relief overwhelmingly onto U of I, the school that least needs funds.

    Good outline for a deal, and good there may be people trying to govern, but there is more money to give beyond the 554M.

  8. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:18 pm:

    Now Rep. Fortner put together a plan for human services. Dems aren’t going to solely bailout HE while their constituency groups are left shriveling on the vine.

  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:26 pm:

    This potential deal is promising, but if Universities are only going to get 4 months worth of FY16 AND they are going to add procurement to this deal, then there is more money to actually give to universities. Further, if universities are not given cash in trade for procurement it will focus the budget relief overwhelmingly onto U of I, the school that least needs funds right now.

    Good outline for a deal, and good there may be people trying to govern, but there is more money to give beyond the 554M.

  10. - Flynn's mom - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:34 pm:


  11. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:34 pm:

    Emergency triage to stabilize the situation until it can be moved to the operating room for a more substantial and (hopefully) permanent fix. More like this please.

  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:43 pm:

    You don’t reject a tourniquet when you’re bleeding to death.

    I suspect Walker is right about the “savings” of “procurement reform.” But if that forces the governor to stop “squeezing the beast,” it’s worth a look.

  13. - Saluki - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:45 pm:

    Dear Governor Rauner. This is what governing looks like. Have a meeting with Rep. Fortner and take a few notes. You might learn something.

  14. - Liberty - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:53 pm:

    Election rhetoric and preparation for the tv commercials.

  15. - Delimma - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 1:56 pm:

    For 18+ months, the governor has been saying the Democrats want “higher taxes,” and he is willing to give them those “higher taxes” so long as they take the blame for those “higher taxes” and he gets to act like the hero saving the very programs that are being decimated/threatened by his strategy.

    What happens if Madigan gives Rauner a budget with across the board x% cuts to balance the budget. He vetoed the entire appropriations bill without using his line item veto. Would he do the same if given a budget that gives him the cuts he seems to be demanding? Or, would he restore funding with his line item veto and then have to ask for funding to keep those programs?

  16. - Saluki - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:09 pm:

    Liberty….If actually having an independent thought and working towards a solution is “rhetoric” then I will take all the rhetoric I can get.

  17. - Dr. Anonymous - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:12 pm:

    Full funding, partial funding, funding of any sort–universities need it. A stopgap bill now might just convince some Illinois students to stay in Illinois, and MAP funding can keep others from giving up on college entirely. Universities need a long-term commitment from the state to flourish, but we’ll take survival for now.

  18. - illini - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:22 pm:

    Sincerely appreciate the effort and intent, but in this case the patient needs major surgery not a band-aide. As do multiple other patients.

  19. - Abigail Adams - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:23 pm:

    what possible “gap” in this conceptualize could be identified by someone who didn’t really want such a plan to succeed? And then how would that gap be filled?

    Just thinking about what pushback might get offered, since finding a way to fund higher ed will = the freeing of a hostage, which won’t happen easily. (Obviously)

  20. - DuPage Bard - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:28 pm:

    Sounds good, unless the Gov and Madigan don’t want an end to this?

  21. - A guy - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:51 pm:

    anyone who has a better idea should post it.

    Pass it, sign it and get to work on a longer term fix.

  22. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:54 pm:

    ===Sincerely appreciate the effort and intent, but in this case the patient needs major surgery not a band-aide. As do multiple other patients.===

    Do the doable. Wishing for more at this point won’t move things forward. Simply stopping the bleeding to insure our colleges and universities live to see another day is enough…..for now.

  23. - Mama - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 4:02 pm:

    ==”What happens if Madigan gives Rauner a budget with across the board x% cuts to balance the budget.”==

    No one can balance the budget without new revenues.

  24. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 4:19 pm:

    ==No one can balance the budget without new revenues.==

    Sure they can. We’re witnessing what the state would look like if that happened right now.

  25. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 7:39 pm:

    ==- A guy - Monday, Apr 18, 16 @ 2:51 pm:==

    A real, full-scale budget.

  26. - Duh - Tuesday, Apr 19, 16 @ 10:54 am:

    This is almost cute. They are proposing to use the EAF to fund higher education, while this has been the way universities have been funded every year since 1990. Only funding universities for part of the fiscal year is unacceptable.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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