CHICAGO — Legislation to fund Illinois' community college payments and student financial aid grants was delivered to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk Tuesday.
Rauner vowed to veto the bill when it was approved late last month.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, delayed sending Senate Bill 2043 it to Rauner's desk, asking that he re-consider the threat. With schools clamoring for their aid payments, which have been stalled by the fiscal 2016 budget stalemate and the fiscal 2017 budget slated for release Wednesday, Senate Democrats sent the bill on to Rauner Tuesday.
Illinois has not been able to adopt a fiscal 2016 budget because of deep disagreements between the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the Republican governor.
Democrats approved the bill last month after rejecting Rauner-backed bills that would have freed up $1.6 billion for higher education appropriations because they would give him additional powers to move funds around and cut spending.
The legislation Democrats instead approved provided monetary award program grants and funding for community colleges, but not universities as Rauner proposed, and did not give Rauner any new powers he requested.
Public higher education institutions have been clamoring for their funds with some warning of layoffs and other measures that will inflict long-term damage on their enrollment and ability to recruit staff and students. Some schools say they can't afford to advance student aid grants for much longer and students have warned they will have to quit school.
Rauner will lay out his fiscal 2017 budget on Wednesday even though the fiscal 2016 plan is still in limbo. The state is grappling with a $5 billion to $6 billion shortfall this year and bills continue to mount.
Democrats' move Tuesday came after one community college saw its rating fall over the exposure to the state's fiscal ills.
Moody's Investors Service Thursday lowered Prairie State Community College District No. 515's rating on $14.7 million of general obligation limited tax debt by one notch to A1 and assigned a negative outlook.
"The downgrade to A1 reflects the district's exposure to the state of Illinois' fiscal pressures," Moody's wrote. "Although state aid is not a primary revenue source for the district, it is exposed to the state's fiscal challenges given its limited liquidity cushion."
The negative outlook reflects worries over ongoing pressures on the "district's financial operations given the state's lack of an adopted budget and the state's persistent fiscal pressure," Moody's said.
The school serves the Chicago suburbs and has a full-time equivalent enrollment of 2,085.
Moody's warned in a recent commentary of the growing strains on public higher education institutions.
"The longer the budget crisis continues, the greater the likelihood that additional Illinois public universities will declare financial exigency to address costs," Moody's said in its report that came after Chicago State University declared a fiscal emergency.