SPRINGFIELD - University of Illinois faculty got some good news this morning, when a House panel voted to add $5.36 million to the $699.4 million budget Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed for the university.
While the money is not earmarked for any particular program, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, R-Urbana, said the UI intends to use the money for salary increases for faculty.
"They have not given any to faculty last year or this year, and that's the intent of that," she said.
Terrence McLennand, assistant director of state relations for the UI, said a 1 percent salary increase would cost about $8 million.
The House higher education appropriations committee added a total of $10 million back into the universities' budgets on a pro-rata basis, said state Rep. Ricca Slone, D-Peoria Heights.
Of that amount, Eastern Illinois University would get $366,000.
Blagojevich said if lawmakers want to add things into the budget he proposed, they should find a way to pay for it, because the state needs a balanced budget.
The committee members did not say Thursday where the money would come from for the increases to the universities.
"At this point I don't have that answer, but I think that it is there," Jakobsson said.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, was the only member on the committee who did not support the budget bills.
He said he is not opposed to giving universities more money, but said he had a lot of unanswered questions, such as how the increases would be funded and how the money would be used.
Bost questioned whether the UI should use the money for salary increases when it claims the cuts in the governor's proposed budget would mean eliminating class sections and holding off on important maintenance projects.
The full House and Senate must still vote on the new budget bills.
At this point in the process, it is likely that the changes made this morning are merely a step in the budget negotiations, and not a final figure that the universities can count on.
The deadline for approving the budget for the year starting July 1 is the end of this month.
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .