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Court ruling derails Stevens Building plans

January 26, 2011

In a stunning unanimous decision, the Illinois Appellate Court Wednesday afternoon threw into question the future of the renovation of the  Stevens Building and millions of state capital dollars for important infrastructure upgrades on campus.

The ruling declared unconstitutional the 2009 legislation that provided much of the funding for the $31 billion capital spending appropriation passed that same year. It was the first capital bill passed by the state in more than a decade. It  included funding for the Stevens building renovation, planning funds for a computer technology learning emporium and infrastructure work around campus.

Capital funding to rehabilitate the badly dilapidated Stevens Building is in limbo after Wednesday's ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court.

The legislation struck down by the Appellate Court hiked taxes on alcoholic beverages and created new taxes on candy and personal grooming projects. Among other things, it also cleared the way for video gambling in bars around the state and privatization of the lottery. Money from those sources was to be used to help fund the projects in the capital bill.

A liquor distributor claimed that the legislation violated a tenet of the Illinois constitution, which stipulates that no piece of legislation can address more than one subject. The appellate court agreed, saying in its unanimous decision that the items in the 2009 legislation did not have any logical connection.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told media outlets Wednesday that the Court’s ruling wipes out funding for about 40 percent of the projects included in the capital projects legislation.

The news was not as bad as it could have been for NIU.

“Cole Hall funding remains safe and intact. In fact, the university has already received the funds for the renovation,” NIU President John Peters told the University Council Wednesday.

However, funding for other projects on campus – including $22 million to remodel and renovate Stevens Hall, and $2 million to plan a new “technology emporium,” as well as millions of dollars for various infrastructure projects and re-appropriation of funds for ongoing capital projects – has now disappeared.

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Gov. Quinn’s administration said Wednesday that he intends to appeal the appellate court’s decision and to seek an immediate stay from the Illinois Supreme Court.

While the administration’s request for a stay is pending with the Illinois Supreme Court, capital projects already in progress will continue as scheduled. NIU expects the Supreme Court to rule on the request for a stay in the very near future.

Wednesday’s action will have no impact on the series of campus improvements to be funded by bonds sold last December. Those projects include

  • Remodeling and reopening of Gilbert Hall
  • Completion of the Grant Towers remodeling
  • Creation of a new outdoor intramural sports complex
  • Repairs and remodeling at the Holmes Student Center
  • Sprinkler installation in Stevenson Towers
  • Parking lot and road repairs, and construction of new bike paths.

Also unaffected are plans for a new residence hall on the West Campus, which will be funded through a public-private partnership.President Peters statement on capital funding ruling.