Reversing cuts to an important college scholarship program and dealing with the state’s ongoing budget deficit headlined a meeting between government leaders this week in preparation for October’s legislative veto session. Largely missing from the agenda was substantive discussion of ethics reform, including changes to the state’s notorious campaign finance laws, according to Senator Tim Bivins.

Governor Pat Quinn and leaders from both parties agreed the state must act to fill a $200 million shortfall in the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which helps more than 130,000 Illinois students pay for college. Because of state budget cuts, no tuition aid is available for students in the coming spring semester, jeopardizing the ability of thousands of needy college students to stay in school.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego pledged to work with Democrat leaders to restore the funding, but signaled opposition to a plan by Governor Quinn to raise taxes this fall to cover the cost – a plan hinged on increasing cigarette taxes by $1 per pack.

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