Bill to end legislative scholarships gets out of Senate subcommittee

SPRINGFIELD — A bill to abolish the more than 100-year-old Illinois General Assembly scholarship program advanced out of a Senate subcommittee this morning with support from both the Democratic and Republican leaders in the upper chamber.

The Senate has long been the main obstacle toward eliminating the controversial scholarship program.

Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, this morning said the subcommittee vote — to be followed later today with a full committee vote — is a breakthrough.

"It's progress. In politics one doesn't always get what they want. This is not the bill I wanted to see passed, but we're getting a lot of what we wanted to see. This is big."

Frerichs predicted the bill would pass.

"I think it's going through," he said. "I feel pretty confident that we'll pass legislation this year that will end it."

If so it would be the end — for now, at least — of a program that has been marked by almost-yearly accusations of abuse by legislators.

An amendment placed on the bill today also creates a task force that will look into other scholarships and college tuition waivers, including the 50-percent tuition waivers offered to some university employees and offspring.

"It's a task force. It doesn't do away with employee tuition waivers," said Frerichs. "That's a fight we can have another day."

Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, said he would support ending the tuition waivers as well as the legislative scholarships.

"While we're doing that, what about the half-tuition program at the university? Why go a half-measure? You might as well do it all?" Cultra said. "Everybody raises concern — and The News-Gazette is a big one — about the legislative scholarships. I just wonder why you weren't as concerned about the other. That's a question I would have for your editorial board.

"I think that just because you work at the university, you get a 50 percent tuition reduction, that's something that ought to be looked at. If it came up for a vote I would probably vote to end it."

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GeneralLeePeeved wrote on May 02, 2012 at 3:05 pm

"Half measure"?....Cultra you're an idiot!  You're comparing apples to oranges.  The 50-percent tuition waivers are a job benefit provided to University workers who have been employed for at least 7 years and are used as an incentive to attract and keep quality workers at wage rates that are often far less than what they could make in the private sector (before all the yahoos chime in.....the overwhelming majority of the people receiving this benefit are NOT faculty members making 6-digit salaries).   The legislative scholarship program, on the other hand, has been a LONG abused perc utilized by your legislative brethren as a means to pay back large campaign donors.  If this program had been used as it should....as a means of helping financially-strapped deserving students, then it most likely would not be a target for elimination.   Cultra, have you ever once publicly chastised a specific fellow legislator for their abuses of this program?  ....I thought not.