On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his annual budget address, which is traditionally the speech that launches the budgeting process in the state of Illinois. In his speech, the governor proposed keeping the higher ed budget relatively flat after years of budget reductions, while maintaining current tax rates.
A key element of the budget discussion is the Jan. 1, 2015, sunset of the 67 percent tax increase enacted in 2011. This will undoubtedly be an election year issue as the debate moves forward.
Last Thursday, I traveled to Springfield with the NIU delegation to meet with a number of state legislators, and last Friday we appeared before the House and Senate appropriations committees. I told our trustees during yesterday’s board meeting that we and other universities were asked to describe the impact of both a 12.5 and a 20 percent budget reduction, which would be very detrimental to our university and other agencies across the state. Honors student Lauren Boddy, who went to Springfield with our delegation, certainly put the topic of funding for higher education into perspective for our state legislators. Perhaps it was her compelling and inspirational story and experiences — and the impact of a potential income tax rate reduction — that influenced the governor’s proposed budget.
The governor’s budget book includes a column titled “NOT RECOMMENDED” that shows the cuts that would be needed if current tax rates are allowed to expire. For NIU, the projected cut is about 12.5 percent, or $11.6 million.
We look forward to continuing our work with the governor and the legislature to support our students, faculty, staff and stakeholders as the budget is being developed; on campus, however, we can’t wait for a resolution on these and other issues in developing the university’s FY2015 budget. Work is already under way in developing a budget based on the guiding principles of alignment, clarity, transparency and sustainability with the goal of maximizing NIU’s human and financial resources to enable student career success. The outcome of this process, which takes into account financial and program viability, will be academically responsive, fiscally responsible budget decisions as best as circumstances will allow.