Bills and budgets move forward

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Bills and budgets move forward


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Illinois is now going on 20 months without a budget. With the minimal progress that has been made on this disaster, it becomes easy to just assume that our legislators and the governor of Illinois are doing absolutely nothing in Springfield. This, I assure you all, is quite false. Many new bills are being proposed and Gov. Rauner has proposed a budget that I believe may finally be the one to receive more bipartisan support. Although it seems things are looking up, it is true that there are still some dismal happenings going on in Springfield.

First and foremost, there was a peculiar bill that passed through the House with bipartisan support. If House Resolution 0030 passes through the Senate and Governor Bruce Rauner signs it into law, October will officially become Zombie Preparedness month. Lawmakers are concerned that Illinois citizens are not prepared enough for natural disasters. So, they believe that if we prepare them for the worst possible occurrence, a zombie apocalypse, surely Illinois citizens will be prepared for anything! Lawmakers even debated over which type of zombie to prepare Illinois for. And we thought they weren’t getting anything done.

Not everything Illinois lawmakers are proposing is completely ridiculous. They are debating bills that actually make sense as well. A college admissions bill has recently been pushed through the House’s Higher Education Committee and is soon to be debated on the floor. This bill would require public universities to admit freshmen students who finished with a grade point average (GPA) that was in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.

As reported by the Peoria Journal Star, Democratic Rep. Andre Thapedi, of Chicago, who believes students who performed well in high school deserve the opportunity to further their educations in college, sponsored this bill. He believes that many colleges lack diversity and that this bill could potentially alleviate some of this problem. Thapedi finds it strange that students meeting GPA qualifications are turned away from many schools without an explanation. He wishes to give these students a chance with this bill. There is some opposition coming from the University of Illinois and the Illinois Board of Higher Education, according to the News Gazette, so it will be interesting to see this bill move forward.

The Senate is currently working on a “Grand Bargain” to come to an agreement on a state budget. Gov. Rauner, however, is against some of the proposals they have come up with. He does not want to raise taxes on food or medicine and he wants to freeze property taxes as well. There are a few other key things Rauner has included in his budget plan that captured my interest. Our governor has proposed expanding some social programs that I think are excellent ideas, but I worry they will not receive the support they need to pass.

His proposed budget would extend a program to the elderly who do not receive Medicaid to provide assistance so that they may continue living at home. Also, K-12 schools would receive 100 percent of their funding for the first time in nine years. Something that college students should be happy about is his plan to expand the Monetary Awards Program (MAP) to cover an additional 120,000 college students. I know friends here at Western Illinois University lost their MAP assistance due to the budget stalemate, so this is good news. Lastly, he would expand childcare assistance and hire 50 new employees at the Department of Child and Family Services.

These are all excellent proposals, and it will be interesting to see how the Senate reacts to them. If Illinois can afford these changes, which may be questionable, these would be a vast improvement to Illinois policy. With the Illinois Valley Central School district voting to sue the state of Illinois at their meeting this past Tuesday for inadequate funding, it is essential that the budget be passed immediately. IVC expects approximately 15 other districts to join before it files the lawsuit. Schools have been going for too long without proper funding, and they are tired of putting up with the gridlock going on in our state government.

Our state continues to be ranked as one of the lowest in education funding in the nation. We have not had a budget for 20 months now. I feel as if I am just repeating the same things we have all been saying for the past year and a half now. Just one individual did not cause this problem; it is everyone’s doing. We’ve seen progress in Springfield. Some of these bills are good, some of them are ridiculous. It is important to remain vigilant to our legislators and our governor. I hope that the governor and lawmakers are able to come to an agreement and finally end this budget stalemate that has caused every citizen of Illinois stress and continues to do so.

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February 20, 2017 at 09:03AM

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Bills and budgets move forward

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