Legislators, Rauner must compromise

Northern Star Editorial Board

The most important word that should be on the minds of legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner when they meet Tuesday is compromise.

Their passive-aggressive, five-month silence over a workable state budget has cost NIU nearly $10 million, a bill the university expects the state to pay in full. Piling on to the issue is NIU’s recently lowered credit rating because of its reliance on funding from a state that can’t pay its bills.

Lawmakers and Rauner will meet Tuesday in Springfield in what will be their first talk in months about a $5 billion budget hole Rauner said needs to be balanced.

“I hate that we’re not getting scholarships for kids who need support,” Rauner said during a visit to NIU on Oct. 29. “It’s driving me nuts.”

More than 5,000 NIU Monetary Assistance Program grant recipients are at risk of having to repay MAP grants that were credited by NIU despite no money coming in from the state, and the university plans to spend $300,000 to maintain the Stevens Building — a state project — over the winter to avoid $1 million worth of damage.

While NIU MAP grants usually go six to eight weeks without funding — more than 10 weeks last spring — the “float” period is much longer this semester, said Rebecca Babel, director of Student Financial Aid. More than $9.5 million in MAP grants were credited to NIU students for the fall semester.

“There is some uncertainty about the final amount that will be approved and paid,” Babel said in an email.

College students, while privileged in many ways, are people in need. Because of the time spent in class and studying, we need money to make up for the time we’re not working, among other reasons.

Most of all, we need an answer to this impasse because it is our most immediate and seemingly immovable obstacle to a better life. Rauner said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about having a budget by January; however, some of us can’t afford to wait that long.

Get this done now.