Lawmakers criticize College of DuPage on Breuder payment
Illinois community colleges and students receiving need-based scholarships will continue without state money for now, but lawmakers Wednesday started moving proposals aimed at the controversy over former College of DuPage President Robert Breuder's severance package.
House Democrats failed in their attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a $721 million college spending plan after state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans against the override.
Another Democratic lawmaker didn't vote, leaving the party two votes short and Rauner's veto intact.
"As long as we keep passing these piecemeal appropriations, I'm convinced we're never going to have a budget in Illinois because we keep relieving the pressure," Drury said. "So instead of it boiling over, it stays at a simmer."
Republicans and Rauner continued to criticize Democrats for what they say is an empty promise to college students because the plan doesn't include a way to pay for the spending in the face of a growing state deficit.
"You don't have to be knee-deep in this stuff to recognize that when we say we're going to give $720 million in spending authority, but we don't have the money, that you're not serious about addressing the problem," said state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican.
Senate Democrats voted to override, but the governor's veto stands without House support.
"Leaving MAP grants unfunded means breaking our promise to students," state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, said. "We told them, get an education, do what you can to make your lives better, and if you need help, we will help you."
Late Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan's office said Democrats will offer a new plan Thursday that pays for state universities, community colleges and some social service programs. It would be funded by not paying back money borrowed from special state accounts last year.
The House isn't set to meet after Thursday again until April, making doing something now a priority, a Madigan spokesman said.
But a Rauner spokeswoman called the plan "phony budgeting."
Meanwhile, the Senate took steps to further reforms recommended by an investigation into College of DuPage.
Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat, discussed his proposed reforms at a committee hearing. He requested a more in-depth look at executive compensation for community colleges following issues at COD.
The recommended changes include:
• Requiring a full audit of all community colleges every three years by the auditor general.
• Changing pension laws so severance pay and perks like housing allowances are not used to calculate retirement benefits.
• Ensuring executives undergo a yearly performance review that is tied to awarding bonuses.
• Requiring all community college trustees to undergo professional training.
Requiring a review by the auditor general every three years and professional training for trustees met opposition from the Community College Trustees Association and the Community College Presidents Council.
Liz Brown-Reeves, a consultant who works with the Community College President's Council, said the other community colleges have attempted to distance themselves from COD's problems last year.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of our schools are good actors," she said. "And there's been a lot of legislation that we worked all year on last year to get rid of the COD stigma. We just want things that make sense and don't cost our schools more dollars, especially when they have no new dollars coming in."