- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a proposal Friday to fund community college and tuition grants that help students pay for college because he said the state doesn’t have the money.

Illinois Democrats approved a plan in January that would have provided $324 million to community colleges and $397 million to the Monetary Award Program.

Rauner said the plan “would explode the state’s budget deficit, exacerbate the state’s cash flow crisis, and place further strain on social service providers and recipients who are already suffering from the State’s deficit spending.”

GOP lawmakers have said the proposal is an empty promise because Illinois doesn’t have a budget. Illinois colleges and universities have not had appropriations since July 1, when a budget for fiscal year 2016 would have taken effect.

Earlier this week, Rauner’s budget address drew students from colleges across the state, including Chicago State University, a school in danger of closing. They gathered outside the House chamber doors yelling, “Save our schools.”

Senators Donne Trotter and Jaqueline Collins, both Chicago Democrats, said Friday they were disappointed by the veto.

“Funding MAP would not only take away concerns and angst among the students that rely on it but relieve pressures on the universities that he has neglected to fund and which are picking up the tab for MAP,” said Trotter.

Collins said the governor is using students as “collateral damage in a personal and ideological battle.” Democrats have said economic development will suffer by not funding higher education.

Senate President John Cullerton said in a statement he will discuss next steps with other Democrats.

Many Democrats want the governor to approve a budget that uses a tax increase and spending cuts to rectify Illinois’ multibillion-dollar deficit. Rauner has said he won’t sign a spending plan that includes a tax increase unless Democrats pass other legislation he wants, such as measures to weaken labor unions.

A Republican measure would provide $1.6 billion for grants, community colleges and four-year universities. The plan also gives Rauner power to shift money around during a budget crisis.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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