(Springfield, IL) – February 16, 2010 — A southern Illinois lawmaker is pushing legislation allowing community colleges to borrow twice their current limit.
The proposal backed by State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) would allow the state’s 41 community colleges to increase their borrowing limit from 75 percent of the taxes permitted to be levied for educational purposes, operations and facility maintenance to 150 percent. The increased borrowing power would last for three years.
Forby said the drastic action is called for because of the state’s late payments to colleges and universities across the state caused by Illinois’ $13 billion dollar deficit.
“If we don’t let them borrow money, we can shut the community colleges down and what are the kids going to do then?” Forby said. ”So my deal is I’d rather put more money in college instead of putting money in prisons.”
Forby’s district encompasses John A. Logan College, a community college in Carterville.
Last week, representatives from the state’s universities pleaded with Governor Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes to release the state funding promised to them. The budget calls for more than $1 billion dollars to go to state universities, but only $335 million has been delivered to the schools so far. Some universities, including the University of Illinois, are calling for spending freezes and furlough days for staff.
Community colleges officials are now joining in the shout to receive the money promised them.
The funding problems are critical for downstate community colleges, according to Edward Duffy of the Illinois President’s Council for Community Colleges.
“Many of our community colleges downstate, don’t have the tax base that the schools up north have, they completely rely on state funding to operate day to day,” Duffy said. ”This bill would allow them to borrow money on anticipated revenues that will be coming.”
However, some Republicans are wary of the proposal.
“Whenever we allow a taxing body to increase its borrowing capacity, particularly from what I understand of the bill to be in excess beyond what a hundred percent of their levy is, I think it should be something we have concern about,” said state Senator Dan Rutherford (R-Chenoa).
The proposal was supposed to be heard in a Senate committee Tuesday, but Forby said he pulled it from consideration in order to get more Republicans on board.
–Jennifer Wessner, Illinois Statehouse News