Statehouse update: Lawmakers mull bond sale to begin alleviation of backlog of unpaid bills

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

In Springfield …

As the Illinois General Assembly struggles to deal with the massive backlog of unpaid bills, a measure is moving through the House of Representatives, supported by Speaker Madigan, which would authorize the sale of $2.5 billion of general obligations bonds.

Up to $2 billion of the bond proceeds would go Medicaid providers, allowing the state to capture federal matching dollars that could help meet bond payments.

Proponents of the bills assert that the five-year bonds would cost Illinois $40 million in interest, with the alternative being to pay $60 million over the same period in late payment penalties to health care providers and other vendors.

Opponents of the measure argue that this will further increase Illinois’ outstanding general obligation debt, currently estimated to be around $30 billion.

A number of bills of interest to NIU and the higher education community were passed by the Senate last week, including:

  • SB 1603 (Hastings) that exempts certain university leases from the provisions of the Illinois Procurement Code. This measure is intended to allow universities to enter in to long-term leases with companies to finance the construction of buildings, structures, or facilities on campus. Current state law limits exempted leases to 10 years, which is too short of a time period to recover the cost of a building.
  • SB 2163 (Rose) adds public institutions of higher education to the list of employers who are required to provide a leave of absence for active military service. NIU already follows this practice.
  • SB 2167 (Hastings) provides that, beginning in the 2013-2014 academic year, if a person is utilizing benefits under the federal Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistant Act of 2008 (or any subsequent variation thereof), then that person will be considered an Illinois resident for the purpose of tuition. A similar bill, HB 2353 (Cloonen), was approved by the House, and Senator Hastings is the Chief Senate Sponsor of that bill as well.
  • SB 1908 (Barickman) provides that local authorities can waive requirements for a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree when hiring police officers if the applicant has military experience. To waive a requirement for an associate’s degree, an applicant must have served 24 months in the Armed Forces, including 180 days in active duty. To waive a requirement for a bachelor’s degree, an applicant must have served 36 months in the Armed Forces, including 180 days in active duty.
  • SB 2199 (Frerichs) allows candidates for Professional Educator Licenses to participate in an internship or residency without having first passed a content area exam. Students would still not be allowed to teach or student teach until passing the subject exam, but could undertake an internship.
  • SB 2229 (Frerichs) provides that, beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year, any person who has served over 10 years in the Illinois National Guard will qualify for an additional two years of tuition and fee waivers from any public university or public community college. This will increase the tuition and fee waivers to six years.

The House passed HB 1443 (Moylan) that provides that a school official, including a teacher, guidance counselor, support staff, coach, or volunteer coach employed by a school, college, university, or other educational institution of this state commits hazing when he or she fails to report to law enforcement authorities any hazing reported to school or educational institution authorities by others or of which school or educational authorities otherwise have knowledge.

The House also passed HJRCA 18 that calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, the lieutenant governor’s office would be abolished.

NIU President John Peters will appear Thursday, April 18, before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee to present NIU’s FY14 appropriation request. He presented testimony March 27 to the Senate Appropriations II Committee.

  • Coming Tuesday: President Obama submitted his FY 2014 budget to Congress last week, two months later than normal.

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

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