Few legislators stick around to hear from UI officials

Few legislators stick around to hear from UI officials

SPRINGFIELD — Top University of Illinois officials and alumni came to the Capitol on Thursday to lobby on behalf of funding for the university.

But by the time they got to the Statehouse at around 2 p.m., many lawmakers already had left town for a long weekend.

Thursday was the university's seventh annual lobby day, held after a regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting at the nearby UI-Springfield.

But it also was a get-away day for lawmakers, the last planned four-day weekend before the scheduled close of the spring legislative session on May 31.

This year's lobby day came at a time when Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposes a 31.5 percent cut in funds for higher education.

Edward McMillan, chairman of the UI board of trustees and a past political and financial supporter of Rauner, said he is "hopeful that the governor's efforts, combined with the Democrats' thoughts about a balance between cost-cutting and revenue, can there be a middle ground at some level?

"Overall — and I'm stepping away from the university for a moment — there's got to be a commitment that if revenue is increased, it isn't going to be used to increase spending. The revenue increase has to be used to fix the financial problem that is there."

Outgoing UI President Robert Easter said his message to lawmakers is that Rauner's proposed $209 million appropriation cut "will have drastic impacts on the University of Illinois."

With the cut, he said, class sizes would increase, the number of courses offered would be cut, and services at the UI Hospital in Chicago would be affected.

Easter, who will step down in less than two weeks, said he isn't aware of any updated budget outlook for the university. Some lawmakers are meeting behind closed doors in various "working groups" to develop a broad agreement on various issues, including ethics, various government reforms, spending and revenue.

"There may be discussions going on in the background, but it's nothing we've been brought into," Easter said. "We continue to make the case that we need support."

Easter said university officials are reviewing all academic units for possible cuts.

"We have some units that have small enrollments and we have to ask ourselves: Can we afford to continue to offer those? We also are looking at our administrative structure to see if there are ways to be more efficient," Easter said. "There's not a single cut or reduction. There will be literally thousands of impacts across the breadth of the university."

It's unclear, he said, when those cuts would go into effect.

"Our board passed a continuing resolution to allow us to continue operations," he said. "But we don't know if we'll have the resources at this point to back that commitment.

"It's a difficult time for us. The uncertainty is a challenge not just for our planning, but for recruiting — recruiting students and retaining individuals."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 08, 2015 at 8:05 am

 

Now they know how we (labor) feel when we try to sit down in good faith to bargain labor contracts and the University's bargaining team doesn't even show up.

Video of the no-show

https://www.facebook.com/jim.mcguire.9/videos/3389858978430/

Jaybriel wrote on May 08, 2015 at 11:05 am

How can Easter say things about what we can or can't afford with a straight face after his bonus was just announced?  How can the N-G report on the UIUC budget without connecting it to the president's bonus?  Oy vey.

Lostinspace wrote on May 08, 2015 at 5:05 pm

The bonus is a drop in the bucket.  Trouble is, if you have enough drops, you fill the bucket (or empty it).

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 08, 2015 at 8:05 pm

They showed up at 2:00 p.m.?  What would have happened if they had skipped lunch, and showed up at 10:00 a.m.?  No one saw this coming based on the legislative schedule?  Sorry, other groups plan when they are wanting to meet with the legislature.