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Local News

State Sen. McGuire warns of more stopgap state budgets

State Sen. Pat McGruire, D-Joliet
State Sen. Pat McGruire, D-Joliet

JOLIET – Illinois may be operating on stopgap budgets into 2019, a local legislator warned this week.

“I want to be blunt with you,” state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, told the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees on Tuesday. “I hear from more and more of my colleagues that we might force Illinois to subsist on stopgap budgets through fiscal year 2019.”

McGuire was giving a legislative update to the JJC board, which has already cut back spending to deal with unreliable state funding.

“For you, it would mean more unpredictable funding,” McGuire told the board while discussing the prospect of ongoing stopgap budgets.

He said the forecast for more stopgap budgets is based on a belief that Gov. Bruce Rauner will continue to attach his turnaround agenda proposals to full-year budgets. Democrats have opposed the Republican governor’s turnaround agenda.

JJC and other colleges typically would get annual funding at somewhat predictable levels. But the political standoff in Springfield has led to stopgap funding, such as the six-month budget that was passed at the end of June.

The college closed its Small Business Development Center this summer because of unreliable state funding and has let many positions go unfilled when employees leave or retire.

“Everything is in limbo with the state,” JJC Controller Jeff Heap said Thursday. “We’re just being really conservative. When positions come open, we’re being very selective.”

With no state budget in place past December, JJC does not know what funding it will get for the second semester, Heap said. State funding amounts to about 10 percent of the JJC budget.

JJC last school year advanced more than $1 million to students depending on Monetary Award Program grants from the state. But the practice stopped this semester. The state has fallen behind on MAP funding, so that the grants come one semester late.

McGuire said funding problems facing higher education also has led to talk of consolidating some of the state’s nine public universities. Possibilities being discussed, he said, include combining Eastern Illinois University with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as combining Chicago State University with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

McGuire clarified those statements later in the week when he issued a statement Friday.

"I am not aware of any discussions at any level of government about consolidating state universities," McGuire said in the statement.

McGuire, who chairs the Senate's Higher Education Committee, said Friday that those comments were made "by individuals" but not legislators or anyone in state government.

McGuire said he was concerned about the impact of his comments as chairman of the Higher Education Committee.

• This story has been updated to clarify statements state Sen. Pat McGuire made to the JJC Board.

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