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Rauner to veto ‘sham’ bill to fund state universities

State House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, left, and state Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, right, talk while on the House floor during session at the state Capitol in Springfield last month. File Photo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The Illinois House on Thursday approved a massive Hail Mary appropriations bill to help fund state universities, community colleges and social service agencies, among many other Illinois departments — a bill one Republican deemed “surprise gotcha politics” and more importantly, one that Gov. Bruce Rauner will veto.

The House bill — approved 70-43 — would provide basic funding for the state’s public universities, community colleges, construction reimbursements for schools, and would also help fund social services for low-income seniors, children with autism and homeless youth.

The House approved two amendments to bills — one to appropriate the funds and the other to pay back $454 million that Rauner used from special funds to help pay for public grammar and high school education.

The vote comes a day after the House failed to override Rauner’s veto of a Monetary Award Program funding bill that would have provided $721 million.

So why was it called a surprise? Some House Republicans said they weren’t involved in the revised bill process on Wednesday. News of the “compromise” amendments came about 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday after the override failed, which the Rauner administration quickly dubbed “more phony budgeting.”

Legislators won’t come back to Springfield until April, after the March 15 primary.

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Thursday’s bill includes $397 million in funding to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for MAP. The commission would process all MAP claims currently submitted by schools by the order it received the claims. It’ll take four weeks just to process those claims before they even get to the comptroller’s office.

“What I propose today is not a global solution to our budget problems, but it does respond to many urgent needs across the state, needs that are not currently being met,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said before the vote.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said he was shut out of the process and called the appropriations “false promises.”

“This is day two of Groundhog’s Day, in which we are going to sponsor legislation which as we said yesterday, is ‘feel-good legislation’ but there’s no way to fund it,” Durkin said. “. . . You know, you know you can’t fund this bill.”

But Flynn Currie, House majority leader, said the bills give students and those needing social services a shot in the arm.

“Unless we make the spending authority available to the comptroller, these programs, these items are absolutely out of luck. We will have slammed the door shut in their faces. I think that is unacceptable. It is irresponsible and it is not appropriate for the members of this Assembly,” Currie said.

Before the session, Tim Nuding, the state’s budget director sent a memo to members of the House, calling the bills unaffordable.

“Knowingly promising way more than can be delivered is disingenuous at best, if not downright dishonest,” Nuding said in the memo.

A Rauner aide confirmed the governor will veto both bills.

“Instead of considering any one of the real solutions that have bipartisan support to fund MAP grants and higher education, House Democrats passed a plan that isn’t paid for. Only in Illinois is that considered ‘compromise,’ ” Rauner said in a statement after the session.

Rauner urged legislators to stay in town and meet about “real bipartisan solutions,” instead of voting on “sham bills and continuing a crisis for political gain.”

Rauner prefers another bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, that would provide $160 million in emergency assistance and $40 million for community colleges.