Quinn to sign measure ending legislative scholarships
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday that he will sign a bill abolishing legislators’ century-old authority to give tuition waivers to students to attend public colleges and universities in Illinois.
The Illinois House voted 79-32 Monday to end the program, sending the measure, House Bill 3810, to Quinn.
The legislation also would create a task force to examine other tuition waivers offered by public universities, including those given to graduate students and military veterans.
Quinn said the focus of scholarships and tuition waivers should be on those in financial need.
"There is no place for a political scholarship program in Illinois,” he said in a statement. “As I have repeatedly advocated, scholarships -- paid for by Illinois taxpayers – should be awarded only to those with merit who are in true financial need. Abolishing this program is the right thing to do."
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said the program was outdated and easily abused.
“Folks, here’s the kicker. People who keep talking about reforming this thing, folks who say we set more rules – we have only one rule for the tuition waivers. And that’s basically that you have to reside in the district. We can’t even do that,” Crespo said.
The tuition waivers have been scrutinized by watchdog organizations, media outlets, and in one case, federal prosecutors. Some legislators have given tuition waivers to family members of lobbyists and other people with political connections.
However, some lawmakers said Monday the actions of a few were spoiling the good the tuition waivers did.
“Eight (school) superintendents met every year and chose those young people,” Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, said of the process he has used to select scholarship recipients. “They chose them based on merit. They chose them based on ability. They chose them based on the simple knowledge that we were selecting them in the right way.”
David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.
How they voted
Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, and Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, voted against House Bill 3810, voting to continue the tuition waiver program. Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, voted to kill the program.
Legislators approve own furlough days
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Monday to give themselves 12 furlough days in the next fiscal year.
If Gov. Pat Quinn signs House Bill 3188, legislators will have to forfeit one paid day each month between July 1, 2012 and Jan. 1, 2013.
Lawmakers in the next General Assembly will have to do the same between Jan. 1, 2013 and July 1, 2013.
The bill would also prohibit cost-of-living pay adjustments for lawmakers and executive elected officers.
Lawmakers said the measure is necessary to show the public that they are taking the state’s financial mess seriously.