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Keicher Talks Preserving MAP Grants As Higher-Ed Braces For Cuts

Rep. Jeff Keicher

Illinois residents voted down the proposed graduated income tax plan. Some education experts were hopeful those extra funds could help restore a portion of funds lost due to pandemic revenue shortfalls.

State Representative Jeff Keicher wasn’t surprised the graduated income tax amendment failed. The Sycamore Republican says it was a matter of a lack of trust in the legislature and Governor J.B. Pritzker to spend that money wisely. He sits on the higher-ed finance committee.

“I think he misled the institutions that are dependent on state revenues by painting an overly rosy picture without having certainty of its passage,” he said.

Illinois higher-ed was flat-funded this year during the pandemic. But, significant cuts in the next year could be devastating to universities who are still rebounding from the state’s budget impasse.

Keicher is a member of the higher-ed finance committee. He says it’s time for the governor and legislature to have an honest bipartisan dialogue about the state’s financial position going forward.

Even though Governor J.B. Pritzker has talked about 5-10% budget cuts looming, Keicher said there are some programs that demand investment. He said higher-ed funds like MAP Grants -- that the state stopped funding during the budget impasse -- are crucial to Illinois students and should be preserved.

“Those MAP grants are our hand up as a state to those students where we can create generational impact in their family dynamics by getting them through a university system. We need to cherish and lift up MAP grants, and that should be a prime focus of what we do,” said Keicher.

He said lawmakers on his committee from both sides of the aisle worked together in 2019 to make budget cuts, but they were erased by an influx of additional revenue. He hopes now the legislature will have to work together to address the financial state’s financial uncertainty.

Another federal stimulus money could also make a substantial difference for colleges and universities struggling during COVID-19. Keicher said he’s not sure but feels cautiously optimistic about the federal government stepping up with a new plan.