The Illinois Senate approved two proposals Thursday: General Assembly scholarships are on the chopping block, and a three-fifths vote could be required to increase pension benefits. While alleged abuse of the tuition giveaway program has been reported over the decades, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) says he stopped awarding scholarships 16 years ago because it’s too expensive for the universities. The state doesn’t reimburse schools for the scholarships.
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“Not only is it subject to abuse, but equally if not more importantly it means that all those parents and students who work hard to pay, they’re absorbing a portion of the cost for this legislative perk,” Schoenberg says. The Senate has sent the House a version of the tuition waiver repeal that adds a twist: a task force to review all waivers, such as those given to children of university employees.
As for ways to fix the pension system, State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) says this is just the beginning. “It certainly doesn’t solve our problems but it’s a good piece of the puzzle that needs to be incorporated,” Brady says. The constitutional amendment, already passed by the House, would require a three-fifths, rather than a simple majority, to increase public pensions. To be adopted, it must be approved by voters in November.