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Rauner says budget ‘last, best chance’ to get state’s house in order

February 18, 2015

Gov. Rauner addresses the Illinois General Assembly during his budget address February 18, 2015.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner shared details of his first budget proposal during a Wednesday afternoon address in the state capitol, and he called for steep cuts, including a 31.5 percent cut in state public university appropriations, according to the budget detail.

“The budget outlined today is the budget Illinois can afford, and that in itself is an example of ‘thinking anew,’ ” Gov. Rauner said. “Because for far too long we have been living beyond our means—spending money that Illinois taxpayers could not afford. This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward.”

For Northern Illinois University, the proposed budget would mean a $29.2 million reduction in state appropriations, dropping the state’s contribution to NIU’s $426 million budget from $93.1 million to $63.8 million.

“While the magnitude of his proposal is certainly of concern to us and greater than we had hoped, it is important to note that this is the beginning of a legislative process that will play out over the next few months,” NIU President Doug Baker said in a statement following the address. “During that time, a great deal of discussion and negotiations will occur. In conjunction with our peer institutions and stakeholders, we will continue to make our case to the governor and the state legislature for the value of higher education and what we deliver to the State of Illinois.”

The governor proposed a number of reforms during his address, including those dealing with workers compensation, unemployment insurance, lawsuits, taxes and pensions, which he targeted as the top priority. Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget seeks to eliminate a $6.2 billion structural deficit without relying on higher taxes or borrowing.

“The proposed budget reflects the reality of revenues as they are today,” said NIU Vice President of Administration and Finance Alan Phillips, noting the state income tax rollback that took effect in January. “There is still a long way to go in the budget process.”

Under the governor’s budget proposal, state support for the Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) was held flat at $373.2 million.