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Legislative Update: Quinn cuts $336 million before signing budget

July 6, 2011

In Springfield…

Governor Pat Quinn, in the last hours of the state fiscal year, used his amendatory veto powers to cut $336 million from the FY 2012 appropriations sent to him by the General Assembly.  The majority of the cuts ($276 million) will be to Medicaid, with $90 million cut from the school bus program statewide and $11 million cut from the regional superintendents of education.

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

The amount appropriated for NIU and the other public universities was untouched – it remains a 1.5 percent reduction from last year’s state appropriation. The Illinois General Assembly now has to act on the Governor’s reductions and line item vetoes; they are due back in October for the fall veto session.

In an unexpected development, the Governor last week notified 14 state departments, boards, authorities and commissions that the mandated pay raises included in union contracts would not be paid because of an absence of sufficient appropriations by the General Assembly.  The Governor’s action will impact approximately 30,000 state workers, but none at NIU.

The Governor signed Senate Bill 1668 on June 28. This legislation allows for alcoholic beverages to be served or sold in buildings under the control of the NIU Board of Trustees for events that the Board determines are public events and not student-related activities.

In Washington, D.C….

The House of Representatives was not in session last week.  There is only about one month remaining before we reach the Aug. 2, when, according to the Treasury Department, the U.S. government might begin to default on its borrowing.  The president has established a July 22 deadline for a bipartisan “handshake” deal.  Assuming that Congress and the president can agree to a deficit-reduction/debt-ceiling deal by that date, it will take a massive effort on the part of Congress to get this agreement written into bill form and passed through both chambers before Aug. 2.

Most of the discussions between Congressional leaders and President Obama are taking place behind closed doors.  While there appears to be agreement on about two-thirds of the package, the remaining one-third has caused deep philosophical divisions. Republicans are demanding deeper spending cuts, while Democrats suggest increasing revenues by eliminating tax breaks on corporate jet purchases, preventing the Big Five oil companies from claiming a deduction on domestic production, and curbing deductions for the richest Americans.  The challenge is to close this gap with some mix of savings and revenues or settle for a shorter-term debt increase.  House Speaker John Boehner would like to avoid the second scenario because it would mean that his members would have to take another vote on the deficit-reduction/debt ceiling issue before the 2012 elections.  It should continue to be an interesting couple of weeks in Washington.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of federal relations for NIU.