012318-blm-loc-1legislativepreview

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, right, speaks about the upcoming legislative session with state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, at the McLean County Republican Party's monthly breakfast on Monday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington.

LENORE SOBOTA, THE PANTAGRAPH

BLOOMINGTON — Two Central Illinois lawmakers are concerned that it will be difficult to pass a 12-month budget in an election year.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, expressed their misgivings Monday at the monthly McLean County Republican Party breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton.

They also discussed efforts to bring major changes to higher education.

Rauner will deliver his State of the State Address on Jan. 31 and his budget address on Feb. 14.

Citing the decades of control Democrat Mike Madigan has had as speaker of the House and the need for redistricting reform, Rose said, “We're trying to reform a system that has killed job after job after job in this state.”

Rose said he fears Democrats in the General Assembly will only pass a six-month budget, hoping to elect a Democratic governor in November.

“I'm very worried for a lot of our institutions,” he said.

More budget uncertainty would be “a bad outcome for taxpayers,” too, said Chapin.

Brady also fears the potential for a half-year budget.

“The rank-and-file need to talk to the governor and speaker … and tell them we need to have a full-year budget,” said Brady.

Although a less than full-year budget is possible, Brady doesn't think the state will see a complete budget impasse.

Knowledge of the problems caused when the state went without a budget or only stop-gap funding for certain areas will be “a pressure point” to get something done, he said.

“We don't want to repeat that,” said Brady.

Their legislation, Senate Bill 2234 and House Bill 4103, calls for Higher Education Strategic Centers of Excellence. Among elements of the proposal are a requirement for the Illinois Board of Higher Education to study academic programs offered at each public university and determine which should get priority at which campuses.

It also calls for a uniform college admission process and a guarantee that a high school student with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale or the equivalent on a 5.0 scale would be guaranteed admission to a public university.

Both lawmakers pointed to the large number of Illinois high school graduates leaving the state to attend college and the need to stop that brain drain. It's a problem that started long before the recent budget troubles, noted Rose.

Brady said a working group of both Democrats and Republicans are looking into the issue.

Although not all higher education officials or members of both parties agree with each of the bill's provisions, “The point is to have the conversation,” said Brady.

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