Marchers descend on office of Rep. Phillips

Olivia Swenson-Hultz, Staff Reporter

About 50 people assembled at Morton Park, marched down Lincoln Avenue and surrounded Rep. Reggie Phillips at his legislative office Monday.

These demonstrators goal was to discuss the Illinois budget crisis with Phillips the day before the General Assembly resumes business.

Crowd members included Eastern faculty, University Professionals of Illinois from Chicago State and other members of the community.

Sace Elder, a member of the EIU-UPI mobilization committee and a history professor at Eastern, said she was pleased with the turnout.

“Given it is the second week after the semester is over, the fact that so many were willing to come out and walk nearly a mile to demonstrate their love for Charleston and EIU, and to express their frustration with the 70% funding cut, speaks volumes about our community’s commitment,” she said.

The main focus of this mob was to discuss with Phillips their concerns regarding Eastern’s and other school’s lack of “full funding.”

While Eastern recently received $12.5 million, this amount is only enough to get through the summer semester.

When they arrived at the representative’s office, crowd members discussed and argued with Phillips about ways to solve the budget crisis.

Phillips also addressed the recent bill that provided 30 percent of the approximately $40 million needed to stabilize Eastern’s budget.

He said in the future he will not vote for a bill regarding appropriations without President Glassman’s approval beforehand.

The state representative also talked with the demonstrators about the smaller 2 or 3 billion dollar bills that he did not vote in favor of because he said “it’s all about politics.”

“Trying to get certain people in and certain people out. That’s what those bills were about,” Phillips said.

However, he said if legislators were to create a bill that would fund higher education 100 percent, he would vote in favor of it with the stipulation that a budget was created a few months prior.

He also said he was for a “tax increase” but not a progressive tax. When asked why he was against progressive tax, he responded that it is not good for businesses.

He when pressed for more answers regarding tax systems, Phillips said that he would like to focus on “bills that will pass.”

Phillips also said he would like to see a four to five year appropriation as opposed to the standard one year appropriation.

Phillips also talked about the 40 million dollar bill that was shut down.

He said he would co-fund a bill with State Representative Rita Mayfield, but Speaker of the House Michael Madigan did not want him to co-fund it.

“I had 40 million in my hand,” Phillips said.

He further said the $40 million bill was going to fund the five universities in the worst financial state and no junior colleges.

Phillips also said he has put together 2 to 3 bills but they have gotten tossed aside.

Phillips attributed the lack of progress in higher education funding to political affiliations.

“You know Republicans are going to need to vote their district, Democrats are going to need to vote their districts, not what is best for their leadership,” Phillips said.

He additionally explained his contributions to the ongoing crisis.

“I’m not involved in any of the budget talks. It’s just the leadership that’s involved, but who’s the leaders? I’m saying let’s bring it to the floor” Phillips said. “Let’s all talk about it. Let’s negotiate.”

After the march, participants returned to the park to begin canvassing homes to drum up support.

Non-perishable food was also collected to support the Charleston Food Pantry.

Destiny Bell and Jason Howell contributed to this article

Olivia Swenson-Hultz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]