Pritzker touts higher education plan, joins call for pharmacies to state abortion pill plans
Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at a news conference in Normal Tuesday which he called to tout his proposed investments in higher education. (Credit: Illinois.gov)
Governor advises pharmacies against ‘capitulating’ to ‘threats’ by Republican AGs
By NIKA SCHOONOVER
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – On his latest marketing tour to sell his state budget plan, Gov. JB Pritzker visited a community college in Normal Tuesday to highlight his proposed investments in higher education.
“With an additional $100 million directed to the (Monetary Award Program) grant program, a student can pair our state support with a federal Pell grant and pay for college with no loans and debt required,” Pritzker said at the news conference at Heartland Community College.
The increase would bring total MAP funding to $701 million, a 75 percent increase since the governor took office. According to his office, the proposed investment would allow most community college students and 40 percent of public university students at or below median income levels to have their tuition covered through the combined grants.
The governor added that every student this year who applied and was eligible for a MAP grant received one.
“When I first took office, going to college in Illinois seemed less affordable than ever before. Prior administrations had cut funding for higher education so badly that out-of-state tuition looked better to Illinois families,” Pritzker said. “And that’s a fundamental failure of state government and it’s a trend we’ve been reversing for the last four years.”
The plan would also provide additional funding for community college programs, including $8.3 million for dual credit and noncredit workforce grant programs, $11 million for development of technology-focused workforce training programs, and $750,000 to expand English language services.
“Illinois has the third largest community college system in the entire nation,” Pritzker said. “We’re home to 48 community colleges and all across the state they open doors to higher wages, new careers, better jobs.”
The governor will spend the coming days promoting the plan across the state, similar to a tour he made in recent weeks to highlight his “Smart Start” plan for early childhood education. He’s also promoted investments aimed at addressing the state’s teacher shortage.
Medication abortion access
Pritzker also announced Tuesday that he joined 14 other governors in calling for major pharmacies to clarify how they will protect access to medication abortion such as mifepristone.
The move comes after a recent announcement by Walgreens that it won’t distribute the medication in 21 states where Republican attorneys general threatened action against the company.
“I’ve spoken with Walgreens executives and expressed my deep disappointment at their announced policy, and I’ve urged them to rethink this decision that will severely limit access to essential health care for thousands of women,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I’m calling on all major pharmacies to resist the political grandstanding of certain state attorneys general and preserve this right wherever reproductive choice is still allowed – which will always be the case in Illinois while I am governor.”
A Walgreens spokesperson stressed in a statement that its pharmacies have not yet offered the medication at any locations, as they are still waiting for certification.
“We want to be very clear about what our position has always been: Walgreens plans to dispense mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so,” Marty Maloney, a company spokesperson, said in a statement. “Once we are certified by the FDA, we will dispense this medication consistent with federal and state laws.”
But Kaiser Health News reported that four of the 21 states where Walgreens has said it won’t sell the pill — Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana — currently allow the legal sale of mifepristone.
The coalition of 14 Democratic governors sent a letter to executives at CVS, Walmart, Rite-Aid, Safeway, Health Mart, Kroger, Costco and Target.
“The other major pharmacy companies have not announced what they’re doing and it’s clear to me that they’re capitulating to the threat by 21 attorney’s general around the nation,” Pritzker said at the Tuesday news conference. “That’s not acceptable and they need to answer what are they going to do.”
Editor’s note: The story has been updated with a statement from Walgreens and a clarification that the pharmacy is awaiting certification to sell mifepristone.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide, as well as hundreds of radio and TV stations. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.