Righter warns Student Senate of future budget issues


Sandeep Kumar

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), answers student questions.

Chrissy Miller , News Editor

State Sen. Dale Righter (R- Mattoon) said the possibility of a gridlock in the state budget is still a possibility for the future after addressing the Student Senate at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.

“Higher education should be prepared for another impasse,” Righter said in an interview with The Daily Eastern News. “It’s my hope that that will not happen, but the gridlock that was broken this past summer, the factors that create that gridlock are still out there.”

Righter said even if a budget is passed, more cuts still need to be made, including another 5 percent in most areas of state government outside of public education spending.

“Next year, I think we are looking ahead at some very serious challenges, including again on the budget,” Righter said. “We will have to cut more in order to even live within the new means the tax increase, which became law in July, provides.”

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), addresses the Student Senate Wednesday night in the Arcola/Tuscola room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.
Sandeep Kumar
State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), addresses the Student Senate Wednesday night in the Arcola/Tuscola room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.
Righter answered student inquiries about the future of Eastern and its budget.

Student Executive Vice President Derek Pierce said he is curious to see what these issues will mean for higher education in the future.

Righter said these budget issues could result in anything from institutions of higher education becoming more specialized to the continued trend of more classes being offered online.

Pierce said he was also curious about what lawmakers’ perceptions of Eastern are.

“I don’t like the publicity that’s been in Springfield for the last 3 or 4 years for Eastern, the last 2 or 3 years, because it’s about, ‘OK, is Eastern going to go under?’ I mean that’s the talk, that’s the buzz that gets started,” Righter said. “That’s not a good thing. Some people think, ‘Well, that’s good because if there’s extra money along Eastern gets to the front of the line.’ That’s not, that’s not good. We need to talk about the academic excellence that is (at) Eastern.”

While concerns were raised about research funding at Eastern, Righter said it is unlikely funding for the area will increase in the near future.

“I do not see any significant progress in that in the next 2 or 3 years because the money is still too tight. You’ve got a hugely significant research institution 45 minutes up the road and quite frankly, that’s a problem for everybody else,” Righter said. “In the end, just like Eastern is competing for students with all the other universities, well, Eastern, like every other university, is competing for dollars over in the Capitol building.”

Student senate member Colt Bible asked what was being done by state representatives to encourage students graduating from college to stay in Illinois.

“Not much,” Righter said. “Graduates from institutions of higher learning, unless they have a specific place in mind that they want to go, they look for the economic opportunities, right? The economic opportunities in Illinois relative to other states have not been encouraging and that is a direct result of the economic policies that are set in Springfield.”

Righter said state universities have not been as competitive as they need to be with out-of-state universities.

“We got caught napping a little bit, I think,” Righter said. “Now, Eastern has a program called the Panther Promise program.”

He said this program, which has been in effect for 3 or 4 years, allows Eastern to offer partial tuition waivers for people who come from middle-class families.

“It’s helped stop the bleeding in terms of those students leaving and going to Indiana State, for example,” Righter said.

Righter said creative thinking is a must to bring in more students as well as enhanced support from Springfield.

“The enhanced support from Springfield will not be forthcoming until Illinois makes a decision as a state, as a policy matter to return our emphasis of where we spend our public dollars back to public education,” Righter said.

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]