Quinn proposes doubling MAP funding in 2015 budget address

By Alex Swanson

Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his 2015 budget address Wednesday afternoon and announced plans to increase higher education scholarships and extend the temporary income tax rate for Illinois residents.

He started his address by reflecting on his past five years in office and said that under his leadership, state funding has been cut by more than $5.7 billion, and more people are working in Illinois today than when he took office. Quinn added that his proposed budget stipulates that every Illinois homeowner will have a guaranteed $500 property tax refund each year.

Quinn came out strongly in favor of education; he argued that making severe cuts to state education funding will certainly harm students, but it would also increase local property taxes for families and businesses.

Quinn also announced that he aims to double the amount of Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants available for students and plans to make higher education more accessible through dual enrollment and early college programs.

Michael Lotspeich, a member of the Student Advisory Committee under the Illinois Board of Higher Education and a sophomore at the University’s Springfield campus, said an increase in MAP funding could be beneficial for college students.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I can see that as a substantial benefit,” Lotspeich said, “not only for students to be able to go to college, but also getting a lot of first-time college students into the work force with a college degree.”

Lotspeich also expressed that he felt the proposal could have a positive effect on the University of Illinois system.

“Coming back to a school like the University of Illinois, I have to really consider that there are a large number of students who receive MAP funding,” Lotspeich said. 

He added that in 2010, the Urbana campus had about 20 percent of undergraduates receiving MAP scholarships.

Quinn said he also intends to invest $1.5 billion in the Birth to Five initiative, which aims to improve early childhood education and prenatal care in Illinois. Additionally, Quinn announced that he wants to increase the state’s investment in schools by more than $6 billion and attempt to modernize classrooms over the next five years.

Emily Miller, policy advocacy director of Voices for Illinois Children, said she is glad to see Quinn strongly supporting education in his address.

“We think that investing money in early childhood and K-12 education is absolutely necessary,” Miller said. “Those areas have seen some pretty substantial cuts, especially since 2009, and restoring something that’s been cut, and expanding our investment in those programs is absolutely vital to the future of our state.”

For Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University, the most surprising announcement of the address was when Quinn announced that he aims to extend the temporary income tax increase as part of his proposed five-year financial plan for the state.

“It was kind of a politically courageous move, whether or not you think it is wise or good public policy,” Mooney said. “It’s easier to be the candidate saying, ‘I’m not gonna raise your taxes, and I’m gonna do everything great’ than to be the candidate who says, ‘I’m gonna raise your taxes and I’m gonna do everything great.’”

Quinn is running for reelection this year against GOP candidate Bruce Rauner, a businessman from Winnetka, Ill. Mooney said he felt that the gubernatorial race may have held a major role in shaping this year’s budget address.

“When you’re in an election year and the incumbent is up for reelection, almost all policy decisions and approaches are affected by the political nature of the environment,” Mooney said.

Brian Gaines, professor of political science at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University, believed that the address could have a positive or negative effect on Quinn’s re-election campaign.

“It depends on how skillfully Bruce Rauner responds,” Gaines said. “He’s got a natural line of attack in that the governor was walking a kind of funny line saying our budget problems are solved, and we need a permanent tax increase, or else there will be disaster.”

Toward the end of his speech, Quinn stated that he is prepared to compromise to pass an effective budget for Illinois.

“Over the coming weeks, I stand ready to work with each of you to negotiate and pass a budget that provides property tax relief to the middle class and better fund our schools,” Quinn said in his address.

Alex can be reached at [email protected].