House Democrats in Springfield are considering two bills to allocate money for tuition grants and colleges, which haven't received funding since July 1 when the current-year budget should've taken effect.
Forgiving repayment of state funds borrowed last year from other special funds would fund part of a compromise proposal that came out Thursday.
The proposal followed a Wednesday failure of House Democrats to override Gov. Bruce Rauner"s veto of a bill to authorize $721 million to fund tuition grants. House Democrats came up two votes short while the state Senate passed the override with the backing of 37 Democrats.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said in a media release on Thursday that the failure to fund the Monetary Award Program (MAP), adult education programs and community colleges, state universities is troubling.
"I am absolutely frustrated that funding for these hard-working, low-income college students and adult education learners has been vetoed twice by the governor," Phelps said. "They have been struggling for months, many of them hanging on by a thread, and we are denying them the opportunity to create a better life for themselves.
"Governor Rauner has discussed on multiple occasions how we need to invest more in education, yet he continues to play politics with students" lives by denying them the resources they need to reach their full potential."
Rauner's budget office said in a letter to lawmakers Thursday that what they're calling a compromise would plunge the state further into debt and is a "giant step backward," further adding that the continued attempts to fund colleges and tuition grants for low-income students is disingenuous because there's no money for it.
Phelps on the other hand calls the bill that Rauner vetoed and that survived the override "a reasonable bill that would appropriate funding for low-income college students, adult education programs and community colleges in terms of MAP Grants."
"In my community, these programs are a worthy investment that not only helps young students and adults start their own careers, but also help our local economy, Phelps said. "I am ready to work in a bipartisan manner and willing to meet halfway, but it must be done in a reasonable fashion that protects Southern Illinoisans."
He added, "I will continue to fight for more resources for the students at places like Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Southeastern Illinois College, and Shawnee Community College."