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Website tracks Illinois budget, pension issues

February 7, 2011

State Pension & Budget UpdateAs work begins in Springfield on the FY2012 budget, the state’s financial well-being is once again a topic of extreme interest.

“While the tax hikes approved at the end of the last legislative session will provide some new revenue, and some relief for the state, it is just one of many steps required to restore the state to fiscally sound footing. Other steps will be required, and many of those actions will directly, or indirectly, affect the university,” NIU President John Peters said.

To help NIU faculty, staff and students stay informed as the situation evolves, the Division of University Relations has created the new State Budget and Pension Update website to provide frequently updated information.

John G. Peters

John G. Peters

“Sadly, fiscal crisis has become the norm for the state,” Peters said. “It creates tremendous challenges and stress, so it is in the best interest of every one of us to stay up to date on these matters – this website will provide a simple way to do so. I will periodically communicate with the campus community on these issues, but the Budget and Pension Update will provide a steady flow of information to keep the campus informed.”

For instance, the site, which went live Monday, Feb. 7, has links to proposed legislation that has the potential to dramatically alter the pensions that most NIU employees are slated to receive, and another bill that would reduce the autonomy NIU has to purchase goods and services.

The site also will track the progress of issues such as MAP funding – an essential form of financial aid for many NIU students, and a crucial part of the university budget. (Currently NIU is still awaiting $12 million in MAP tuition reimbursements for the fall semester, and to date no funding to NIU for the spring semester has been provided.)

The site also will track the rate at which the state provides funding appropriated under the current budget. As of now, the university has received approximately 20 percent of the FY2011 operating funds appropriated by the state, creating yet another cash flow problem for the university.

The site will also include links to budget working documents, pension legislation, budget legislation, information on how to contact state legislators and links to news stories regarding the financial health of the State of Illinois.

The website also includes a link to an article in the most recent edition of the Illinois Report, “Titanic and Sinking: The Illinois Budget Disaster.” Authored by writers from the Institute of Government & Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, it provides an excellent overview of the state’s current financial situation and examines proposed solutions.

“Financial issues will once again be of crucial importance this spring,” Peters said, “and I urge everyone on campus to take advantage of the State Budget and Pension Update to stay informed on these topics.”