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Op-Ed: Andersson on Governor's Recent Veto of Higher Education Bill

Today the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 2043 which purported to appropriate funds for higher education in Illinois.  It was the correct decision. During the debate on this bill on the House Floor, we Republicans pointed out that passing this bill would be a fraud on the people of the State of Illinois and would be particularly cruel to those students who might believe that passing this bill would fund their MAP grants and educational institutions. My objection to the bill was, and continues to be, that while it would authorize spending; it did not provide the revenue necessary to fund it. It is irresponsible to continue to spend money we simply do not have.

However, my objection to this bill goes far beyond the fraud that would be worked upon Illinois students. During the 8 month budget impasse, most state programs have been operating on auto-pilot; State employees have been paid, many government programs are funded through court ordered decrees and some departments are funded through continuing appropriations. Also the K-12 education funding bill was approved. This means that the pressure to negotiate a budget deal has fallen upon two groups: 1) higher education and 2) social services.

While I was initially pleased that K-12 education was funded, I came to realize that this funding of education is actually prolonging our budget impasse. I have said for a long time that had K-12 education funding not been approved, this stalemate would have never gone on this long. Why? Because virtually all Illinois families rely on public education in their daily life. People from all parts of the state would have demanded a resolution so that schools around the state would open. The pressure on the legislature would have been too great not to negotiate a resolution. That pressure, quite simply, does not exist, because education was funded.
So, whatever pressure does exist is only because of the lack of funding of higher education and social services. If we now also fund higher education, the total weight of the budget impasse will fall upon our social service safety net and the people who rely upon it. To place in the middle of the all negotiations, the people who can least defend themselves, persons with mental health issues, the developmentally disabled, the homeless and many others. That is the unkindest cut of all.

As I have said from the beginning, I stand ready to negotiate in good faith and reach a middle ground on the budget, but it needs to be a complete budget, not a piecemeal budget that ignores the whole and pretends to fund programs when it does not. The people of the State of Illinois deserve no less.