State Budget passed for 1st time in 3 years

Cassie Buchman, Staff Reporter

The Illinois House of Representatives overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on three bills Thursday, giving the state its first budget in three years.

Under this budget, Eastern will receive 100 percent funding for FY 17, 90 percent of its funding for FY18, full Monetary Award Program funding for both FY 17 and FY18 and almost $5 million for needed capital repairs.

To meet ordinary and contingent expenses, almost $38.68 million is being allocated for FY18, with a separate $8,000 being allocated to scholarship grant awards.

A little less than $11.08 million appropriated to the university is meant to meet operational expenses for the fiscal year that ended on June 30,2017.

Going from the Capital Development Fund to the Capital Development Board for the Illinois Board of Higher Education is about $4.76 million for the remodeling of the HVAC in the Life Science Building and Coleman Hall, $59,282 for upgrading the electrical distribution system and $10,790 to renovate and expand the Fine Arts Center.

In an email to the campus Thursday, Eastern President David Glassman wrote that the enacted budget allows the university to begin moving forward.

“We have managed to maintain our top ranking throughout this impasse by prioritizing the student-faculty experience above all else,” he wrote. “Now, we will move forward with renewed fervor, building on our history of excellence with a vision for meeting students where they are and preparing them to not only contribute to- but improve- the world that awaits.”

Though the money has been appropriated to Eastern, university officials do not know yet when this money will come in.

Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, said the university will receive the money whenever the state has it to give.

Some of the money comes from the Educational Assistance Fund, which Eastern will send in vouchers for.

But McCann said since there is nothing currently in the General Revenue Fund, Eastern will have to wait until the state gets taxes and collects money before that will come to the university.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how quickly they’re able to get that out,” McCann said.

Even after an appropriation, McCann said the university is “still a ways off from being able to say everything’s like it’s always been, or back to normal.”

“Has this helped?” he asked. “Sure. We are not going away-we’re going to be here and this is just reaffirmation of all of that.”

But the state still has a $14.3 billion backlog of unpaid bills, so it still has to pay some expenses to pay before giving Eastern its money.

McCann said every state agency has money appropriated in the budget that was recently passed, so the state needs to determine who it is going to pay and when it is going to pay them.

Money has been set aside for the university, but now there are many questions as to when the money will be available, he said.

Once the money does start coming in, the administration can start looking at the prospect of hiring back people who have been laid off, by looking at which departments need more people, though it has not taken this step yet.

“There is not a plan yet, we have to be reviewing operations, seeing where the need is and start talking about those sort of things,” McCann said.

Glassman said before calling back workers the university needs to review the budget for the coming year and assess the university’s staffing needs.

Other ways the money will be used is going to be determined during budget discussions at the President’s Council meeting in August.

The hard spending freeze  on all purchases enacted Thursday, June 29, is still in place, though it could end at the beginning of the fall semester.

“We’ll take it off once the cash starts coming in,” McCann said.

The university has not seen a “normal year” of funding for a while, even before the start of the budget impasse in 2015.

“We have had delays in payouts of appropriations for years,” McCann said.

However, McCann said the legislature passing a budget was a nice “first step” in doing what needs to happen.

“Once we start figuring out what’s going to happen, some normalcy will return…We see a positive way forward with where we’re at,” he said.

One benefit McCann said passing this budget had on the university is that it assured students Eastern is going to stick around.

“For the people that were wondering, the rumors that were out there- it says there’s a budget for us,” he said.

Josh Norman, associate vice president for enrollment management, said they are concentrating on getting the message about the additional stability the budget provides to students coming for the fall 2017 admissions cycle.

This means they will target those students who have not made a decision on where they are going yet.

“It really isn’t about the prospective student’s response to us-it’s more about changing our strategy moving forward between now and August,” he said.

If the budget is part of students’ concerns on coming to Eastern, Norman said those working in enrollment management can make sure to address that.

While it is still early to tell, Norman said a budget being passed could mean positive activity in the way of students committing to Eastern in comparison to last year.

“I’m not sure how that will play out, but I think we’ll see some positive momentum because of the decision that was made in Springfield,” he said.

Glassman said students in Illinois “certainly should be” less worried about coming to a public state university in Illinois now that a budget has been passed.

“With the budgetary impasse in Springfield resolved and the demonstration that the state is now supporting higher education at a stable and predictable level as demonstrated in the enacted budget, students in Illinois and beyond should have complete confidence that Illinois public universities are a great place to attend,” Glassman said.

Rep. Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston) voted Thursday to override Rauner’s vetoes, but said doing so did not make him any less of a Republican.

“It makes a person decide he has to vote for his district,” Phillips said. “He has to think about all the people in his district to the best of his ability.”

On Facebook, Rauner released a statement, calling the override “another step in Illinois’ never-ending tragic trail of tax hikes.”

“(Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s) tax-and-spend plan is not balanced, does not cut enough spending or pay down enough debt, and does not help grow jobs or restore confidence in government,” Rauner said in the statement. “It proves how desperately we need real property tax relief and term limits.”

 According to the Chicago Tribune, Madigan said the people in the House  did not do what was easy in overriding the veto, but what was right for the future of the state.

“Today, Republicans and Democrats stood together to enact a bipartisan balanced budget and end a destructive 736-day impasse,” Madigan said.

 Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]