Senate approves plan to cut education funding

Stephanie Markham, News Editor

Following the House’s approval on Tuesday, the Illinois Senate voted in favor of a plan Thursday to cut funding to education by 2.25 percent for the remaining three months of fiscal year 2015, meaning Eastern will have to return about $1 million of its $44 million in appropriations.

In accordance with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s effort to fix the $1.6 billion hole in the state’s budget, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan proposed the measure to rescind a total of $300 million from various areas including education.

The Senate passed the measure 32-26 while the House voted 69-48, according to The Associated Press.

Richard Wandling, the chair of the political science department, said he views the approval of this plan as a preliminary step to preparing for next fiscal year’s budget.

“I would view it as a step toward the governor and the legislature demonstrating that they can work together with some degree of good faith when things get serious next fiscal year,” he said.

Both chambers are majority Democratic while Rauner is Republican.

Wandling said he predicts more disagreement on fiscal year 2016’s budget because Rauner’s proposed cuts are considered severe.

“From a political standpoint it appears they are trying to clear the deck,” he said. “It shows an underlying consensus that the state does have some mismatched revenue and spending.”

Wandling said plans like this have come up in the past, but they usually come down to anxiety or a question mark as to whether or not the university would have to return money.

However, he said this is not the first time the state has asked for money back.

He said this happened in fiscal year 2002 because the Sept. 11 attacks caused economic problems and many states were facing recessions.

“It was when Gov. Ryan was still in office, and I remember meeting in the Charleston-Mattoon Room and we were all given instructions on what would likely be cut, between $1 (million) and $3 million,” he said.

Wandling said he is interested to see how the state will implement the plan.

“We are well into the fiscal year,” he said. “Once you start moving into April, you have deadlines for closing out the budget.”

He said he hopes the administration would be open about deciding how to reallocate university funds.

“It will certainly draw more attention to the athletic funding issue,” Wandling said. “However the burden ends up being shared, transparency is the key.”

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said Wednesday that Eastern had already committed or spent most of its budget, so he would have to start looking for places where expenses could be reallocated so the university could give money back.


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].