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Higher Education Funding "Compromise" D.O.A.

The latest effort to fund Illinois' financially-starving universities and colleges may be dead on arrival. Republicans are giving early indications they're not buying a last-minute offer unveiled just Wednesday night and slated for debate Thursday.

Republicans have rebuffed Democrats' other attempts at funding higher education because they say it would add to the state's deficit, including a measure lawmakers spent much of Wednesday debating.

By the end of the day, they had nothing material to show for it. Democrats failed in their attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of legislation that would have funded community colleges and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for low-income college students. 

Then, once the Capitol cleared out: an evening email from House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown announcing a "new compromise effort."

"It's being offered because we listened to the alibi hour all Wednesday afternoon from the Republicans, and they kept saying, 'well you have to have a way to pay for it, you've got to do this, you've got to do that,'" he said. "It appears in our view we're taking another step and meeting the governor and the Republicans halfway in this whole budget impasse situation.

The latest plan includes a Republican-backed method for funding higher ed. Essentially it would let Illinois off the hook for repaying money it diverted from special funds ... money used to balance last year's (Fiscal Year 2015) budget.

But the Democrats' offer also spends additional money on other social service needs, far beyond the scope the borrowing contrivance would "raise."

To Republicans, it's no olive branch --- it's a Trojan horse.

The governor's office was quick to reject the offer, saying it's more "empty promises" and "phony budgeting." 

“We are not going to respond to Steve Brown’s childish rants," Vicki Crawford, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. "The House Republicans look forward to a professional discussion to solve the higher education problem.”

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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