UI leaders ask for $722 million in funding

Illinois Capitol News

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Leaders from higher education institutions told senators how much funding they would like to receieve from the state next year. The UI asked lawmakers for more than $722 million but some senators believe in order for them to receive that money they will have to slight another group of taxpayers.

Senators said the governor’s proposal to increase higher education is a great for area colleges but it could take money away from a different group of educators.

“As this moves into the budget phase of the legislature, I’m going to keep my eye on the bottom line which is do the numbers add up? Will this thing balance or not?” Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said.

As higher ed leaders from around the state detailed how much money they need for next year, the governor’s budget plan remained the elephant in the room. UI leaders praisied the proposal.

“We are grateful to Governor Pritzker for his support of higher education and the U of I system in the budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. His budget proposal would provide a nearly five percent increase for appropriations,” said UI president Tim Killeen.

Senate leaders called for a second look, saying the money proposed to go the instuitions could be money from the pension fund for retired teachers.

“What I asked the U of I to do is to analyze the governor’s proposal because there is a big cavern between five sentences in the governor’s speech and $900 million,” Rose said. “I want to know from their expects how they view this proposal. Do the numbers add up or are the Retired Teachers Association and The Illinois Education Association and Federation of Teachers correct in calling this a pension skip?”

Retired educators believe Pritzker’s budget plan would skip adding millions into their pension system. The UI acknowledged the state has financial issues but they said the problems should not stop funding for their students.

“None of this should negate the fact that we need to invest in our people. The human capital is really what is going to drive the prosperity in this state. That’s how you build a tax base, that’s how you pay for pensions, that’s how you generate the job that can go forward,” said Killeen.

The university said most of the money would go to repairs campus repairs and student development. If they receive the funding they requested, it will be $120 million more than they receieved from the last budget.

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