Illinois House Passes Bill To Pay $4B For Higher Education, Social Services

Mar 4, 2016

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday to pay nearly $4 billion for higher education and social services -- but without new revenue to back it up. 

Credit state of Illinois

Democrats like House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, cast the package as a compromise with Gov. Bruce Rauner. It allows him to avoid repaying money taken from special state funds, a notion Rauner has endorsed.

"It's not the best idea since sliced bread," Currie said, "but it is the governor's idea, and I'm willing to give him the courtesy of a yes vote."

But House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says his party was caught off-guard. The measures were introduced last night. 

“I'm waiting for you and your side of the aisle to work with us to try to find a compromise," Durkin said, "not shoving a bill down our throats and the taxpayer's throat which you're doing right now."

The legislation uses an accounting trick to provide some revenue to back up the spending. It says the governor doesn't have to pay back money taken out of special funds.

Republicans say the plan will add to the state's deficit and would only free about $450 million – not nearly enough to cover all spending. They call the legislation a sham, intended to put Republicans on the spot just before the March 15 primary.  

Democrats say Illinois can't wait any longer to fund important services. ​

The package now heads to the Senate.