- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A vote on a rare bipartisan agreement to send $600 million to financially struggling colleges and universities in Illinois was delayed Thursday during a roller-coaster evening that once again highlighted how dysfunctional the Legislature has become in its tenth month without a budget.

One moment House lawmakers were congratulating each other for working together, and then just before they were going to vote on the measure the Democratic lawmaker sponsoring the bill pulled it, prompting audible groans from Republicans in the chamber.

Earlier, Republican House Leader Jim Durkin lauded his GOP colleagues for “hanging tough” in negotiations with Democrats. The Senate, meanwhile, was waiting for the House to take action.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re here and we’re able to vote on this bill. I’m pleased to also state that the Senate is waiting for this (bill) to take action on it, and I’m also pleased to state that the governor will sign this if it reaches his desk,” he said.

Both chambers are in session again Friday but it’s unclear what will happen with the bill. Lawmakers have to act soon because they’re on break next week for Passover and higher education institutions have been limping along without state support since July 1, when the budget for the current fiscal year should’ve taken effect.

The bill comes at a crucial time for Chicago State University, which is on the verge of closing its doors because of the standoff between Democrats who control the Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“We hope the majority will respect the bipartisan agreement reached today and move the agreement to the governor’s desk without delay,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

Rep. Mark Batinick, a Republican from Plainfield, reminded lawmakers after the bill was postponed that prospective college students are deliberating where to go to school, with a May 1 deadline looming for their decisions.

“Congratulations, everybody,” he said, slapping away his microphone.

The money for the bill is possible because of a surplus in the state’s Education Assistance Fund, which takes a portion of income taxes for public schools and colleges. The funding proposal also has nearly $170 million in tuition grants for low-income students.

“The purpose of this bill is simply to provide emergency funding to our universities through the summer with the hope that we can continue to work on a budget so that we can fully fund them,” said Rep. Rita Mayfield, the Democrat sponsoring the measure.

But several of her colleagues complained before the vote that the bill didn’t provide enough funding for colleges and bemoaned the fact that there was no money for struggling social service programs.

“This is short-sighted, it’s political, it’s done only for political cover,” said Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Woodstock.

Moments later, when it appeared a vote was imminent, Mayfield spoke again.

“I’m sorry. I received a request from my members to pull the bill and to call it tomorrow,” she said, without offering further explanation.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide