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Statehouse update: Illinois universities oppose bill to end tuition waiver for employees’ kids

March 5, 2012
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

The Illinois General Assembly faces some upcoming deadlines on when substantive bills must be out of their chamber of origin, so last week was very busy and this week promises to be even more hectic.

Last week, House Bill 5531, sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo, was passed out of the House Executive Committee by a vote of 9-2. This bill would eliminate the university tuition waiver program available to the children of qualified university employees.

NIU joined most of the other public universities and many union and annuitant organizations in opposing this bill. There are two similar bills pending, HB 3873, also sponsored by Rep. Arroyo, and HB 2959, sponsored by Rep. Rosemary Mulligan. Both of these bills were assigned to the House Higher Education Committee, and it is doubtful that they will be passed out of this committee.

During the discussion of HB 5531, there was talk about introducing an amendment that would place a salary cap on those eligible to receive a tuition waiver. There also was discussion about the possibility of treating the value of these waivers as income.

We will continue to oppose these bills.

House Bill 5654, introduced by Rep. Monique Davis, was one vote short of the seven votes needed to pass it out of the House Higher Education Committee. This bill provides that if a public university increases its tuition over the previous academic year, then the base salary of the university president, vice presidents and other principal administrators employed by the university must be reduced by the same percentage as the tuition increase.

NIU registered its opposition to this bill. After a lengthy discussion, Rep. Davis indicated that she will work on an amendment that would require that the salaries of the above-referenced university employees would be held flat (no raises) in the event of a tuition increase over the previous year.

I expect that this bill will be called again Wednesday, March 7, during the committee hearing.

Map of IllinoisOn March 1, 2012, the House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 68 and House Resolution 707, both sponsored by House Leader Tom Cross and Speaker Mike Madigan.

Both of these resolutions approved the estimated revenue level for Illinois for Fiscal Year 2013 at $33.7 billion, a more conservative estimate than that of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) and the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). This estimate is approximately $200 million below the estimate upon which the governor’s FY 13 budget proposal was based.

In addition, in approving this revenue estimate – which has been agreed upon by all four legislative caucuses – it was made clear that this is only the revenue estimate and should not be interpreted as meaning that this is how much will be available to be allocated for spending. The discussions and negotiations on the spending allocations to each of the five House appropriations committees, including higher education, will begin next week.

While these spending allocation levels are being determined, both the House and the Senate are beginning appropriations hearings. NIU President John Peters and his leadership team will appear Thursday, March 8, before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee in Springfield and before the Senate Appropriations II Committee on April 3 in Chicago.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.