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Illinois Republican Lawmakers Target Procurement Savings To Fund Higher Ed

WIU students demonstrating.
Rich Egger
Tri States Public Radio

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said the state can fund higher education if it changes how it buys products and services. He said changes could save Ilinois taxpayers around a half a billion dollars a year, but procurement reform wouldn't cover all of the state's higher education spending.

Democrats passed legislation last week that would give more than $390 million dollars to tuition waviers for students in the Monetary Awards Program, or MAP grants. The governor says he will veto the bill because there's no money to pay for it.

"Legislators are proposing on the Republican side, MAP grant funding, but with reforms to pay for it," Rauner said. "That's what we should be doing."

Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he was part of budget hearing on this issue all last year. He said the savings to universities would not be "chump change."

"We talked about what this procurement bill costs. What it costs them on a day-to-day basis, what it costs them on an annualized basis," Rose said. "Former president of the University of Illinois, Bob Easter, said it could be upwards of $70 million bucks."

Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, has introduced a proposal that he said would simplify the purchasing process for colleges and universities in the state.

"In our opinion, our state universities are at a crisis point," he said. "This type of procurement legislation that will be outlined here today is a type of significant lifeline that could help those universities and community colleges."

Brady's legislation would reduce the state's number of chief procurement officers and create a pool of pre-approved vendors. He said it would save money and time, by minimizing bureaucracy.

University leaders have been asking for years to be freed from procurement red tape. Republicans say revising the state purchasing process would save more than 150 million dollars a year for colleges and universities. But, that's less than half of the money, $372 million, awarded as MAP grants in Fiscal Year 2014.

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