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updated: 5/23/2012 7:20 AM

Pat Quinn gets plan to eliminate controversial legislative scholarships

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  • Fred Crespo

      Fred Crespo

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn will have the opportunity to abolish the controversial legislative scholarship program after the Illinois House voted Monday to do the same.

The plan to end the program, sponsored by Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, faced a stiff debate on the House floor but was eventually approved by a 79-32 vote. Quinn said he looks forward to signing it.

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"There is no place for a political scholarship program in Illinois," Quinn said in a statement.

Suburban lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for the plan. But Carol Stream Republican Randy Ramey voted against it, as did Waukegan Democratic state Rep. Rita Mayfield.

The scholarships have come under fire in recent years after reports some lawmakers have either given out the lucrative tuition waivers inappropriately or to politically connected students.

Still, opponents said the scholarships could be important to some students' chances to go to college, and state Rep. Ken Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat, accused Crespo of carrying the legislation to play to the media.

The idea drew a loud response from Crespo. "Stop right there," he shouted. "Do not make it personal."

"This is a media issue for you," Dunkin said later.

State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said the scholarships have brought lawmakers "into disrepute."

Cash-strapped state universities often complained they carried the financial burden when lawmakers chose to waive tuition. Supporters of the scholarships challenged that point, arguing schools could absorb the costs, which amounted to $13.9 million in the 2009-10 school year. Republicans shot back, though.

"It's like bizarro world here today on the House floor," said state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican.

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