People’s ears must have been burning in Charleston Friday. A bill to provide about $1 million in tuition discounts for students at Eastern Illinois University was the backdrop for a bitter debate the day after Illinois House members’ contentious 11-hour budget discussions and votes.

State Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin) carried the bill for the “Panther Promise,” a premise mocked by Democrats who pointed out: 1) Hays and all other Republicans just a day earlier voted No on the budget, including the part for higher education; 2) many of them resent the demise two years ago of the legislative scholarship program, which collapsed amid stories of rampant cronyism and other abuses.

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State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), one of the loudest defenders of the now-defunct program, suggested Eastern is in need of the kind of special help Hays wants to provide: “Eastern Illinois University may be of that ilk of sort of an antiquated approach that’s not progressive, that has not attracted students, that has not attracted professors, and suddenly has to come up with fake programs that offer tuition waivers to help subsidize its lack of 21st Century educational approach,” he said.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) says the Democrats ought to look in the mirror: “The hypocrisy is talking about spending revenue and appropriating it when you don't have a revenue source, and you appropriate numbers at a higher number, anticipating a tax hike which has not yet occurred.”

The dozens of budget bills would spend about $38 billion, a number which could be reached if the state’s personal income tax remains at 5 percent; it is scheduled to recede to 3.75 percent after Dec. 31.

Republicans have pointed out the apparent departure from the nature of the 2011 income tax increase with signs at their desks reading Temporary?. Democrats answered with signs of their own today: Got Plan??? and #MyDogAteTheirPlan.

Hays’ bill, S.B. 2765, passed the House 74-14-15.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)