After seven months without funding, the Illinois legislature Thursday passed a bill to pay for tuition waivers for low-income college students. It would also send money to community colleges, but it's doubtful the political wrangling over this issue is finished. Illinois has gone nearly eight months without a budget.
The General Assembly passed $721 million in funding for the Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, but that doesn't mean the money will show up soon.
Democrats and Republicans agree the state should help low-income college students, but they disagree on how to do that. Republicans, such as House Minority Leader Jim Durkin from Western Springs, said the state's continuing budget impasse means there's no money to pay them.
"This is a cruel hoax to students who think they're going to get their MAP funding provided and also the community colleges," Durkin said during the debate in the House.
However, Democrats said it's just a matter of spending priorities and it's the first step in fully funding higher education. Treasurer Michael Frerichs said the state takes in money everyday. Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said the state has a $7 billion backlog of unpaid bills.
Public universities have also gone months without state funding, but there's no money for them in this legislation. It will not likely matter because Gov. Bruce Rauner has already said he will veto this bill. Republican lawmakers said they have some alternative bills to this one.