01252017CM0217ResizeSPRINGFIELD – On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony on the governor’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The testimony showed that higher education has been irreparably damaged because of the budget impasse.

“Universities and community colleges have been cut to the bone because of the games being played in Springfield,” State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) said. “Yet the governor blocked the so-called grand bargain legislation that would have paved a path for a balanced budget.”

When asked what universities could afford to cut, many universities said there is nothing left. If the governor’s proposal for fiscal year 2018 is realized, state universities will have seen a 42 percent cut to their funding since 2015, when the governor took office.

“We need a budget that properly funds higher education so that we can start to repair the damage done by the governor’s failure to propose a balanced budget,” Cunningham said.

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devel dis 030717300Stories pop up every day all across Illinois about the effects of the budget impasse. Those stories range from facility closures to students who may be on the hook for thousands of dollars for their education. One story in the 18th District shows that the developmentally disabled are especially at risk during the budget impasse.

“Sertoma Centre is just one example of the crisis that the state is facing,” Senator Bill Cunningham said. “We need real governing to ensure that we can end this fiscal crisis that is doing real harm to our community.”

Sertoma Centre has been open in the Alsip area since 1971. The group was created to provide opportunities that empower individuals with disabilities to achieve success. The group serves over 200 people and has three facilities throughout the south suburbs. In the 1990s, Sertoma opened its first Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) home.

Unfortunately, the budget impasse has hit Sertoma Centre hard. The Centre is primarily funded through Medicaid. But due to the budget impasse, delays in payment have meant a financial crisis for the community service center.

“All our services are dependent on state funding with the exception of our school transition program, which is funded through local school districts,” said Gus van den Brink, the executive director of Sertoma Centre.

The agency though has seen declining reimbursement rates for the services they provide. It could only be a matter of weeks before the facility has to start laying off staff due to the budget crunch they face.

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cunningham 040114 schl sftyCHICAGO— When a succession of Illinois public college and university presidents were paid excessive severance packages after being forced from office, State Senator Bill Cunningham knew something had to change.
Senator Cunningham proposed a package of reforms, that go into effect on January 1, which would make the hiring and firing process of college chief administrators more transparent and fair to both taxpayers and tuition payers. One new law includes a proposal that would not allow car and housing allowances to be considered pensionable income.
“This reform package takes proactive steps to ensure college presidents are offered reasonable compensation that does not burden the taxpayers and the students who pay their salaries,” Cunningham said. “We have to ensure that tuition is not used to support administrative bloat at state universities and community colleges.”
Among other provisions of the new laws is a cap on severance payouts and a ban on lame duck community college boards from approving a new contract for a president.

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053015CM0579resizeSPRINGFIELD—State Senator Bill Cunningham joined a bipartisan group of legislators to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 250 which, if overridden by the House, will implement automatic voter registration in the State of Illinois.

Senate Bill 250 provides citizens with an opt-out when the go to apply for a state ID or driver’s license at any secretary of state’s office. Currently, residents have to opt in to register to vote.

“This proposal will ensure that every Illinoisan has an opportunity to have a voice in our state’s democracy,” Cunningham said. “We need to be proactive in ensuring that everyone has an easy path to be heard.”

The legislation now moves tot he House for an override vote.

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