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Hammond Calls Gov's Higher Ed Budget "Non-Starter"

Rich Egger

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's budget proposal this year recommends funding higher education at 85% of what the state provided in fiscal year 2015.  State Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) said that's not enough.

“I think 2015 was a year when we had made a lot of cuts going back to 2003. We had made cuts going back to 10, 12 almost 15 years. So to make a 15% cut to 2015 is pretty much a non-starter for me,” Hammond said.

Hammond  is the minority spokesperson for higher education in the Illinois House. She did not detail how she plans to use her key leadership role to increase state aid for higher education outside of expressing hope of working across the aisle to reach a budget compromise.

“We say education is our #1, but often times we have to say well, so is social services. We are challenged with that. But again education doesn’t end at 12th grade, it goes through community college and higher education,” Hammond said.

Hammond’s district includes Western Illinois University as well as Spoon River College and Carl Sandburg College.

Illinois has gone nearly two years without a state budget, which has forced community colleges and universities to rely on their reserve funding and scrape by on infrequent cash infusions.

In that time, Western has covered the costs of MAP grants for low income students and lowered tuition costs in an effort to keep the budget impasse from impacting the wallets of students.

Western’s President Jack Thomas testified before lawmakers recently that “there’s nothing left to cut” at the university.

Hammond said Western is not alone. “We hear that at many of the community colleges and university that there’s just nothing left for them to cut,” Hammond said.

Hammond said she doesn’t believe its too late for Illinois’ state colleges and universities. But she described herself as a realist, “It’s going to take some time to come back from what’s happened over the last 10 years to higher education.”

Hammond made her comments to Tri States Public Radio at the McDonough County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.