Illinois House Passes More Than $3B In Spending For Higher Education, Social Services

Mar 4, 2016

The state of Illinois hasn't funded higher education or many social services, as a budget impasse continues. House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday to partially restore that money. But the political wrangling isn't done yet.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

  The measure authorizes Illinois to spend $3.7 billion dollars on the state's colleges and universities. It also sends money to the Environmental Protection Agency, and funds immigrant services and respite care.

Democrats say after eight months without a budget, Illinois can't wait any longer to fund important services. The legislation uses an accounting trick to provide some revenue to back up the spending.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, cast the package as a compromise with Gov. Bruce Rauner. It allows him to avoid repaying money taken from special state funds, a notion Rauner has endorsed.

  "It's not the best idea since sliced bread, but it is the governor's idea and I'm willing to give him the courtesy of a yes vote," she said.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says his party was caught off guard by the measures. They were just introduced Wednesday night after Democrats failed to override Rauner's veto on funding tuition waivers for low-income students.

"I'm waiting for you and your side of the aisle to work with us to try to find a compromise, not shoving a bill down our throats and the taxpayer's throat which you're doing right now," Durkin said.

Rauner and fellow Republicans said that the proposals would only free up about $450 million dollars, which is not nearly enough to cover all of the spending. They called the legislation a sham that's intended to put Republicans on the spot ahead of the March 15 primary.

The package now heads to the Senate.