SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Senate Republicans are launching a task force to examine the potential impact of cuts to state universities contained in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's budget proposal.
State Rep. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, state Rep. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, and state Rep. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, are among those who will travel to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and four other public universities in the next month to hear from faculty and students.
?Gov. Blagojevich has targeted the universities for $112 million in cuts for this fiscal year and next,? said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville. ?When added to the cuts and extra fiscal responsibilities they have had to assume since Fiscal Year 2002, our universities are receiving $245 million, or 16 percent, less. Universities' administrators have given us their ideas about what these cuts will mean to their programs, and now we want to talk with the people who will be most affected: faculty and students.?
The first meeting will be at Illinois State University in Bloomington on April 15. Times and dates have not been announced for visits to Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University and the UI.
The governor's budget recommended giving the UI $699.3 million for the year beginning July 1. That is a cut of about $58 million from the amount the state gave the UI for the year ending June 31, and would trim state support for the university back to 1998 levels.
?Working with the universities, we have been able to identify savings that will not impact what happens inside the classroom,? Blagojevich said in his budget address.
But UI administrators estimate they will have to cut 1,160 positions, including 245 faculty, 100 non-tenured instructors and 400 teaching assistants, and 1,000 course sections will have to be eliminated.
Winkel said the UI's piece of the budget was bigger than what was originally being considered by the governor.
?A few weeks ago, we were talking about cuts equivalent to two gallons of blood - now it's more like two pints,? Winkel said. ?The governor's administration has also backed off its efforts to grab authority from the University's Board of Trustees, and the two groups are working to establish a better working relationship.?
The budget must still be approved by the General Assembly before it heads back to Blagojevich's desk for his signature.
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