Bill to help fund IL colleges, transportation passes in state Senate

Published: Mar. 17, 2016 at 7:34 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University and other state universities would finally get state support and potentially scale back program cuts and layoffs thanks to legislation introduced Thursday in the Illinois Senate.

Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) helped the Senate approve legislation that includes $185 million in support for SIU.

The vote comes just days after university leaders warned lawmakers that deep cuts and layoffs were coming because the state had stopped supporting state schools.

"State schools deserve state support," Forby said. "SIU is the economic engine of our region. We must work hard to keep this institution open and keep jobs in Southern Illinois. The fact that more than 300 faculty and administrative professionals could be laid off is outrageous."

The proposal also cements an Amtrak deal to keep trains running through Carbondale and elsewhere in the state.

Gov. Rauner and state transportation officials announced a deal with Amtrak in February. However, because the governor last year vetoed the budget that includes Amtrak funding, he had no spending authority to honor that contract. The legislation gives the governor the authority to honor that contract.

"Amtrak is a vital transportation option. Thousands of SIU students and staff rely on it along with tourists coming to enjoy all Southern Illinois has to offer. I'm glad the governor abandoned his efforts to slash Amtrak service and will now have the ability to back up the contract he signed," said Forby.

The measure, however, was not met with unanimous acclaim.

"Senate Democrats today admitted that this bill would do nothing to help higher education, MAP students or social services because there is no money to pay for it," says Catherine Kelly, Press Secretary for Gov. Rauner.

"Rather than adding billions to our debt and risk further delaying payments to social service providers, the General Assembly needs to stay in Springfield and negotiate a balanced budget alongside structural reforms that create jobs and grow our economy."

The measure, Senate Bill 2059, passed the Senate with a vote of 39 to 18 and will now go to the House for consideration.

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