SIU’s Dunn: “We need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost”

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* SIU President Randy Dunn on the governor’s proposed budget plan…

Since we haven’t had a real budget going on for 20 months now, remember that it’s become customary to analyze proposals against our last “normal” year of state appropriations … FY15.

If you look at the higher education sector overall for FY18, general funds for institutional grants and other initiatives are down 9.9% from 2015, but that figure doesn’t include the state’s share of pension funding contributed for university and community college employees. (If you count pension funding as part of our state support, the drop looks a little less daunting at 6.7%.)

Each of the public universities would be funded next year at an 85% level from where we were for FY15. For the SIU System, that would mean a loss of roughly $30 million; the $199 million received three years previous would drop to $169.554 million for general operations in 2018. However, each institution would also have the opportunity to earn back a 5% funding performance set-aside, theoretically bringing the appropriation level up to 90% of 2015. The performance funding model would be the same one utilized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education already — which is only at a .5% level currently. While I’m a firm believer in the concept that governors and legislatures should have the prerogative to drive some portion of state support based on performance, I do worry about two things with such plans: 1) “Access” schools — and this institutional value is part of SIU’s DNA — will start curtailing, if not denying admissions to a swath of students who appear even somewhat at-risk of not being able to meet whatever performance metrics are chosen; and 2) Performance funding turns into a redistribution mechanism where those institutions which already may be advantaged in terms of resources available, student profile, geographic service region, and the like receive even more support … while struggling schools attempting to serve higher-need students are penalized. In my view, neither of those unintended consequences is good public policy.

But I digress. Back to the budget details: Two designated appropriations important to SIUE — one for the School of Pharmacy, and the other for debt payment to the City of Edwardsville for the newly constructed fire station on the campus — would be completely zeroed out. By contrast, a separate directed appropriation which was first added for SIUC in 2015 — for the Daily Egyptian student newspaper — is maintained for FY18, to supplement a student fee increase by the campus for that same purpose that year. And while there is some funding re-appropriated for previously approved projects, no new capital funding for HIED is proposed for yet another year.

As I listened to the governor deliver his budget address in the House Gallery last Wednesday, I did find elements that I was heartened to hear. Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Monetary Award Program, is recommended for a 10% increase in funding which would serve another 12,000 students statewide who are MAP-eligible but have not had access to funds. That’s important to SIU. As well, Governor Rauner acknowledged the need to get serious about making progress on deferred maintenance of state facilities across all public sectors; for the SIU System alone, that total is a staggering $700 million if you count every possible capital renovation, repair, and replacement project currently on our books.

* And here he talks about the Senate’s attempt at a compromise…

Right now those important questions are getting immediate attention in the Illinois Senate to see if an evolving “grand bargain” budget — for FY17 — can yet be achieved. Given we’ve had no predictable revenue or viable long-term funding plan from the state since June 30, 2015, the “urgency here is critical” — to quote Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Senate leaders are saying that a vote needs to be taken by the end of this month … or close to it … if that chamber’s bipartisan plan is going to provide a way forward. You see, the Senate’s omnibus budget deal would make a state income tax increase retroactive to January 1 to meet its revenue goal; but, waiting much longer to pass a 2017 budget would force too high of “backloading” of state tax withholding in the final months of the fiscal year to make it palatable to most voters (i.e., six months of state tax taken out over four months of pay). So time is of the essence.

I am supportive of the Senate plan as it presently exists, even though there are parts of it I don’t like — and figuring out the pension reform piece will be tough. While it pains me greatly to say it, we need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost — essentially a year when Illinois higher education absorbed a 73% state cut. But we all survived it, even if badly wounded … and reality says that time and politics have moved on. However, the spending plan for SIU now contained in Senate Bill 6, at $93.4 million — taken in conjunction with the stopgap money appropriated last June 30 — would bring us back to a normal year of funding (a/k/a FY15) once again. Besides that, the budget deal would have the symbolic impact (maybe psychological, even) of getting the stalemate broken while offering a working template for moving into FY18. Plus we would be assured of reimbursement for the millions of dollars we’ve already advanced to the State of Illinois this year to cover MAP grants and a multitude of other contracts and services.

The political instincts of more than a few experienced Springfield hands suggest that if we leave this opportunity empty-handed, the last glimmer of hope for a reliable, predictable, viable state budget anytime in the next couple of years leaves with it. Such an outcome would do nothing to help our steadily shrinking state of higher education in Illinois. So it is time for a deal to get done, and if it does, we’ll be the first to champion the cause.


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via Capitol Fax.com http://capitolfax.com

February 22, 2017 at 01:59AM

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SIU’s Dunn: “We need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost”

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