Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

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The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability recently published a good piece on why Illinois is losing residents (and it’s losing a lot). But “losing” suggests that people leaving Illinois is the problem.

And that’s what the CTBA post clarifies. Compared to other states, Illinois is in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of people leaving, or out-migration. It’s in-migration that’s the problem, where Illinois is third from the bottom. While 27 people per thousand left in 2015, only 22 people per thousand moved in.

The problem’s gotten worse throughout the state as well. Cook County has had net out-migration every year since 1990; downstate hovered around zero from 1990 to 2007; the collar counties had high in-migration until 2006. Beginning around 2006, net migration in all three areas regressed to near zero, as the Great Recession made it harder and less appealing to move at all, whether in or out.

Since the economy’s recovered, all three areas, including the former growth region of the collar counties, have declined.

What’s going on? CTBA goes through a number of causes, but one in particular caught my eye: migration trends downstate where there are public universities.

While typically these college-adjacent areas (the blue line in the graph) are more immune to population loss than those without nearby public universities (the orange line), both have fallen quite low in the last seven years. 

Chicago has covered this trend before. In January, well into the budget crisis, Judith Crown covered the out-migration of Illinois high schoolers to neighboring states, finding that a problem which predated the crisis had gotten worse.

At the root of all this are cuts in state funding that have forced Illinois schools to raise base tuition and fees. At Urbana, in-state rates rose 59 percent over the past 10 years, to a minimum of $15,700 and a maximum of $20,700 (not including room and board), depending on the major. At the same time, financial aid through the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides need-based grants to residents, doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s not even clear from term to term whether funds will be available: In a survey released in December by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, 47 percent of Illinois schools said they couldn’t guarantee that students would continue to receive in the spring semester awards they got in the fall.

Meanwhile, schools like the University of Iowa and the University of Missouri were making their schools just as or more affordable to attend for Illinois residents, wiping out the most obvious and easiest-to-control advantage one state has over another in terms of retaining its high-school graduates.

The results aren’t particularly surprising, as I wrote not long after. State university enrollment has declined in Illinois while it’s increased for our neighbors.

The problem seems to have gotten worse. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute recently released an overview of enrollment trends and the economic impact of the state’s higher-ed contraction (h/t Capitol Fax), finding that Illinois colleges and universities lost 72,000 students during the budget impasse. That includes community-college students, a population much greater than the four-year student population, but it’s still about a nine-percent decline; 4,900 direct jobs were lost, about a six percent cut.

Put together, it’s a lot of students gone, and a lot of jobs lost that could also impact local populations. Smaller schools were the hardest hit. NEIU, Governor’s State, and the two SIU campuses increased their tuition over nine percent from 2015-2017; UIUC, an internationally regarded, well-endowed flagship, raised its tuition just two percent. It also added about 2,500 students from 2011 to 2016.

This issue long predates the budget impasse. Back in 2008, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at UIUC sounded the alarm: In the previous decade, state support of universities declined 18 percent, while tuition and fees at UIUC itself had increased from about 12 percent of the state median income to 16 percent. In 1988, MAP grants covered about 65 percent of public-university tuition; in 2008, about 40 percent.

The budget crisis simply accelerated this decline. To get out of it, the state can look to its neighbors—and why our high-school graduates are moving there.

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Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient

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Fanny Sampson co-signed student loans for three of her four children, so when one of her daughters got a letter in May from student debt servicer Navient saying it would no longer accept credit card payments, the Northbrook resident stepped up with her checking account number.

Not long after, Sampson, her daughter and even her son, whose name isn’t on the loan, started getting calls saying the loan was delinquent. Sampson, who estimates that her children are on the hook for nearly $100,000 in combined student debt, said she wasn’t notified about an increase in the loan’s variable interest rate. As a result, the automatic payments deducted from her checking account no longer covered the entire balance due.

“I said, ‘You call me three times a day to tell me that I’m delinquent, but why didn’t you have a courtesy call telling me that my interest rate was going up?'” Sampson recalled. Other aggravations she’s encountered include inconsistent service from call center representatives and requests to speak to supervisors that go unmet.

Sampson is far from alone in experiencing frustrations dealing with Navient, which services $300 billion in student debt — about a quarter of all federal and private loans nationally.

The company is facing lawsuits in Illinois and elsewhere from federal and state regulators, as well as consumers, over a range of business practices, including allegedly making unauthorized robocalls, doing a poor job of tracking payment processing errors, steering borrowers into costlier repayment options and misapplying payments. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient earlier this year in federal court in Pennsylvania, accusing the company in a news release of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers sent Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill earlier this summer that would create new rights for customers of Navient and other student debt servicers. Among other measures, the proposed law would require the companies to give borrowers clear information about how they can pay their loans and the amount of payments, including fees assessed, the total amount due for each loan, payment due dates and interest accrued during billing cycles. Rauner has until early next week to sign or veto the bill, which has the backing of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office filed its own lawsuit against Navient earlier this year.

Navient has denied the state and federal allegations against it and is fighting them in court, arguing that the company follows the law and goes above and beyond disclosure requirements.

Consumer complaints about student debt servicers — whose responsibilities include processing payments, explaining repayment options to borrowers, and collecting on delinquent and defaulted loans — aren’t limited to Navient.

A recent report from the CFPB found that borrowers say their servicers often provide them with information on hardship forbearance or deferment — which pause payments but not interest on outstanding debt — instead of “potentially more beneficial” options like income-driven repayment plans. Borrowers also complained about lost documents and inaccurate accounting that muddied their good names. Some reported being contacted by collection companies for accounts that had been paid in full.

The CFPB echoes other consumer advocates, who say the U.S. Department of Education is stalling on critical protections for borrowers.

“For too many years, the Department of Education and private lenders have failed to conduct active oversight of the loan servicers they use to collect payments, leaving borrowers to fend for themselves,” said Suzanne Martindale, a Consumers Union lawyer whose areas of focus include student loans.

While complaints about the student debt servicing industry are widespread, Navient in particular has become a focal point for regulators and consumers.

“Navient is one of the worst offenders in Illinois and around the country, steering borrowers toward forbearances that increase loan costs and applying repayments inaccurately,” said Erin Steva, Midwest director for Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for adults ages 18 to 34.

The CFPB received more complaints about Navient in a recent three-month period than it did about any other company in any industry. From November through January, the CFPB received an average of 1,439 complaints against Navient per month, according to an April report from the agency. The student debt company with the next-highest average was American Education Services, with 149.

Year to date, about 300 complaints from Illinoisans have been filed against Navient at the federal agency, more than double the number that piled up in all of 2016. Virtually all of the complaints lodged by Illinois consumers with the federal bureau received a timely response from Navient, agency records show.

The CFPB isn’t the only federal agency fielding complaints about Navient.

In June, a half-dozen consumer groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to take action against the company, accusing it of harassing borrowers with automated phone calls. And an Illinois man filed a federal lawsuit against the company in May seeking class-action status over robocalls.

Navient, meanwhile, is aggressively defending itself against the allegations brought by consumers and regulators, asking courts to toss out the state and federal lawsuits.

Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen Pantle held a hearing last month on Navient’s motion to dismiss Madigan’s lawsuit, which the judge is now weighing.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed in January, alleges some borrowers must contact Navient monthly to “fix the same errors on their accounts,” including how payments are spread across multiple loans or applied to unpaid interest, fees or principal.

“Sometimes the payment was intended to pay off a specific loan, but Navient allocated the payment to all of the loans,” the lawsuit alleges. Decisions on allocating and applying payments could lead to higher interest charges and negative information sent to credit agencies, the suit says.

Assistant Attorney General Michele Casey told Pantle at the July hearing that Navient assured struggling borrowers it would give tailored advice, including whether income-based repayment plans or forbearancewould be most suitable.

In reality, Casey alleged, Navient workers were compensated partly by keeping phone calls to under six minutes and therefore steered most borrowers into “one-size-fits-all” forbearance because it got them “off the phone fast.” Casey said that saves Navient money even as its training materials say forbearance should be a “last resort.”

“That was an unfair and deceptive practice under the Consumer Fraud Act,” she said.

Navient’s lawyer, however, told the judge the federal Higher Education and Truth in Lending acts already impose disclosure requirements. The Illinois attorney general wants to retroactively impose new disclosure requirements, Navient said.

“What they’re doing is adding disclosure requirements that exceed the ones that Congress set,” Michael Shumsky, a lawyer representing Navient, told the judge.

“There’s no allegation that when somebody called Navient and said, ‘I’m struggling to make my payments. Is there something that you can do for me?’ that Navient said, ‘Go away. We’re not interested in helping you,'” Shumsky said.

As for allegations that payments were misapplied, Navient said an internal analysis of customer complaints shows, in most cases, borrowers didn’t specify how to allocate their payments. The company said it’s a common consumer credit practice to apply payments to outstanding interest before principal.

While Navient’s request to toss out the Illinois lawsuit is under review, a federal judge in Pennsylvania earlier this month rejected the company’s motion to dismiss the CFPB’s lawsuit.

Navient takes issue with many of the complaints that have been filed against the company with regulators.

For example, Navient spokeswoman Patricia Nash Christel said the company’s analysis shows most of the complaints lodged against it through the CFPB’s portal are related to loan policies — including disagreements about loan terms set at the time they were made — not servicing errors.

The more than 1,400 complaints per month Navient saw from November to January represent a tiny fraction of the 12 million customers whose loans it services. The company says it has 750 million interactions a year with borrowers, including through letters and phone calls, and processes more than 90 million payments annually.

In response to complaints about robocalls, Navient told the FCC in June that student loan servicers “are different from telemarketers offering a free cruise.”

“Calls and text messages from student loan servicers are proven methods that help millions of Americans,” Navient said in a 64-page letter to the FCC. “Live contact with borrowers is key to helping them navigate the multitude of options and the complexity of the repayment system.”

Nine times out of 10, federal student loan borrowers who default haven’t responded to Navient’s outreach or contact in the preceding year of missed payments, Christel said.

Navient has said it tried “telephone contact” in 2015 with 1.2 million borrowers who weren’t enrolled in income-driven repayment plans, but they “never responded to our outreach.” The company said some borrowers choose forbearance even when offered enrollment in alternative repayment plans.

The company’s arguments on its behalf are of little comfort to Sampson, the Northbrook mother who co-signed her kids’ loans.

Navient said it couldn’t discuss Sampson’s situation unless she signed a waiver granting permission, which she declined to do.

Her children have bachelor’s degrees from DePaul University, the University of Maryland, the University of Wisconsin and Loyola University. One has a political science degree, another a liberal arts degree, and two have bachelor’s degrees in business. Her 23-year-old son has a steady job, but he lives at home, and much of his pay is going to repay his student loans. She said he was briefly in a forbearance program.

“He said, ‘Mom, I got a breather,'” Sampson recalled. “I said, ‘You have to be careful because it’s not that they’re pardoning what you owe.'”

byerak@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @beckyyerak

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient

http://ift.tt/2wFpMCC

Fanny Sampson co-signed student loans for three of her four children, so when one of her daughters got a letter in May from student debt servicer Navient saying it would no longer accept credit card payments, the Northbrook resident stepped up with her checking account number.

Not long after, Sampson, her daughter and even her son, whose name isn’t on the loan, started getting calls saying the loan was delinquent. Sampson, who estimates that her children are on the hook for nearly $100,000 in combined student debt, said she wasn’t notified about an increase in the loan’s variable interest rate. As a result, the automatic payments deducted from her checking account no longer covered the entire balance due.

“I said, ‘You call me three times a day to tell me that I’m delinquent, but why didn’t you have a courtesy call telling me that my interest rate was going up?'” Sampson recalled. Other aggravations she’s encountered include inconsistent service from call center representatives and requests to speak to supervisors that go unmet.

Sampson is far from alone in experiencing frustrations dealing with Navient, which services $300 billion in student debt — about a quarter of all federal and private loans nationally.

The company is facing lawsuits in Illinois and elsewhere from federal and state regulators, as well as consumers, over a range of business practices, including allegedly making unauthorized robocalls, doing a poor job of tracking payment processing errors, steering borrowers into costlier repayment options and misapplying payments. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient earlier this year in federal court in Pennsylvania, accusing the company in a news release of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers sent Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill earlier this summer that would create new rights for customers of Navient and other student debt servicers. Among other measures, the proposed law would require the companies to give borrowers clear information about how they can pay their loans and the amount of payments, including fees assessed, the total amount due for each loan, payment due dates and interest accrued during billing cycles. Rauner has until early next week to sign or veto the bill, which has the backing of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office filed its own lawsuit against Navient earlier this year.

Navient has denied the state and federal allegations against it and is fighting them in court, arguing that the company follows the law and goes above and beyond disclosure requirements.

Consumer complaints about student debt servicers — whose responsibilities include processing payments, explaining repayment options to borrowers, and collecting on delinquent and defaulted loans — aren’t limited to Navient.

A recent report from the CFPB found that borrowers say their servicers often provide them with information on hardship forbearance or deferment — which pause payments but not interest on outstanding debt — instead of “potentially more beneficial” options like income-driven repayment plans. Borrowers also complained about lost documents and inaccurate accounting that muddied their good names. Some reported being contacted by collection companies for accounts that had been paid in full.

The CFPB echoes other consumer advocates, who say the U.S. Department of Education is stalling on critical protections for borrowers.

“For too many years, the Department of Education and private lenders have failed to conduct active oversight of the loan servicers they use to collect payments, leaving borrowers to fend for themselves,” said Suzanne Martindale, a Consumers Union lawyer whose areas of focus include student loans.

While complaints about the student debt servicing industry are widespread, Navient in particular has become a focal point for regulators and consumers.

“Navient is one of the worst offenders in Illinois and around the country, steering borrowers toward forbearances that increase loan costs and applying repayments inaccurately,” said Erin Steva, Midwest director for Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for adults ages 18 to 34.

The CFPB received more complaints about Navient in a recent three-month period than it did about any other company in any industry. From November through January, the CFPB received an average of 1,439 complaints against Navient per month, according to an April report from the agency. The student debt company with the next-highest average was American Education Services, with 149.

Year to date, about 300 complaints from Illinoisans have been filed against Navient at the federal agency, more than double the number that piled up in all of 2016. Virtually all of the complaints lodged by Illinois consumers with the federal bureau received a timely response from Navient, agency records show.

The CFPB isn’t the only federal agency fielding complaints about Navient.

In June, a half-dozen consumer groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to take action against the company, accusing it of harassing borrowers with automated phone calls. And an Illinois man filed a federal lawsuit against the company in May seeking class-action status over robocalls.

Navient, meanwhile, is aggressively defending itself against the allegations brought by consumers and regulators, asking courts to toss out the state and federal lawsuits.

Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen Pantle held a hearing last month on Navient’s motion to dismiss Madigan’s lawsuit, which the judge is now weighing.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed in January, alleges some borrowers must contact Navient monthly to “fix the same errors on their accounts,” including how payments are spread across multiple loans or applied to unpaid interest, fees or principal.

“Sometimes the payment was intended to pay off a specific loan, but Navient allocated the payment to all of the loans,” the lawsuit alleges. Decisions on allocating and applying payments could lead to higher interest charges and negative information sent to credit agencies, the suit says.

Assistant Attorney General Michele Casey told Pantle at the July hearing that Navient assured struggling borrowers it would give tailored advice, including whether income-based repayment plans or forbearancewould be most suitable.

In reality, Casey alleged, Navient workers were compensated partly by keeping phone calls to under six minutes and therefore steered most borrowers into “one-size-fits-all” forbearance because it got them “off the phone fast.” Casey said that saves Navient money even as its training materials say forbearance should be a “last resort.”

“That was an unfair and deceptive practice under the Consumer Fraud Act,” she said.

Navient’s lawyer, however, told the judge the federal Higher Education and Truth in Lending acts already impose disclosure requirements. The Illinois attorney general wants to retroactively impose new disclosure requirements, Navient said.

“What they’re doing is adding disclosure requirements that exceed the ones that Congress set,” Michael Shumsky, a lawyer representing Navient, told the judge.

“There’s no allegation that when somebody called Navient and said, ‘I’m struggling to make my payments. Is there something that you can do for me?’ that Navient said, ‘Go away. We’re not interested in helping you,'” Shumsky said.

As for allegations that payments were misapplied, Navient said an internal analysis of customer complaints shows, in most cases, borrowers didn’t specify how to allocate their payments. The company said it’s a common consumer credit practice to apply payments to outstanding interest before principal.

While Navient’s request to toss out the Illinois lawsuit is under review, a federal judge in Pennsylvania earlier this month rejected the company’s motion to dismiss the CFPB’s lawsuit.

Navient takes issue with many of the complaints that have been filed against the company with regulators.

For example, Navient spokeswoman Patricia Nash Christel said the company’s analysis shows most of the complaints lodged against it through the CFPB’s portal are related to loan policies — including disagreements about loan terms set at the time they were made — not servicing errors.

The more than 1,400 complaints per month Navient saw from November to January represent a tiny fraction of the 12 million customers whose loans it services. The company says it has 750 million interactions a year with borrowers, including through letters and phone calls, and processes more than 90 million payments annually.

In response to complaints about robocalls, Navient told the FCC in June that student loan servicers “are different from telemarketers offering a free cruise.”

“Calls and text messages from student loan servicers are proven methods that help millions of Americans,” Navient said in a 64-page letter to the FCC. “Live contact with borrowers is key to helping them navigate the multitude of options and the complexity of the repayment system.”

Nine times out of 10, federal student loan borrowers who default haven’t responded to Navient’s outreach or contact in the preceding year of missed payments, Christel said.

Navient has said it tried “telephone contact” in 2015 with 1.2 million borrowers who weren’t enrolled in income-driven repayment plans, but they “never responded to our outreach.” The company said some borrowers choose forbearance even when offered enrollment in alternative repayment plans.

The company’s arguments on its behalf are of little comfort to Sampson, the Northbrook mother who co-signed her kids’ loans.

Navient said it couldn’t discuss Sampson’s situation unless she signed a waiver granting permission, which she declined to do.

Her children have bachelor’s degrees from DePaul University, the University of Maryland, the University of Wisconsin and Loyola University. One has a political science degree, another a liberal arts degree, and two have bachelor’s degrees in business. Her 23-year-old son has a steady job, but he lives at home, and much of his pay is going to repay his student loans. She said he was briefly in a forbearance program.

“He said, ‘Mom, I got a breather,'” Sampson recalled. “I said, ‘You have to be careful because it’s not that they’re pardoning what you owe.'”

byerak@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @beckyyerak

Regulators, consumers target student debt servicer Navient

This Illinois Republican faced a choice: Vote for a tax increase or ‘let it burn.’ | Reading Eagle – AP

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(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

CHARLESTON, Ill. – Reggie Phillips had all the right qualifications to get elected to the state House from this rural community about 200 miles and a world away from Chicago. The silver-haired businessman was successful and self-made, a born-again Christian with a deeply conservative, low-tax message.

But that was in 2014. A two-year partisan standoff over the budget rattled his district, leaving the university that is its economic engine struggling for survival. So a few months into his second term as a member of the Illinois House, Phillips broke with most of the state’s other Republicans and voted for a budget that raised the state income tax 32 percent.

“My choices were, let it burn or come back and fight another day,” recalled Phillips, 64, sitting low in his chair in the dining room of a hotel he owns here. “I’m really not interested in seeing my state burn.”

Phillips is not alone. Across the country, Republicans who had long adhered to anti-tax approaches are defying party orthodoxy and voting to raise taxes, bending in the face of dire financial problems plaguing their state budgets and pressure from constituents.

In South Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee, Republicans voted to increase gas taxes. In Alaska, some Republicans proposed reinstating the income tax to fill a gaping hole in the budget caused by low oil prices. In Michigan, a dozen Republicans joined with Democrats in the legislature to sink a proposal to reduce the income tax.

Kansas most famously became a cautionary tale this year after the Republican-controlled legislature rolled back a series of dramatic tax cuts that did not turbocharge the economy – as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback had promised – but rather left the state in debt and schools underfunded.

The fight also is playing out in Washington, where Republicans who control Congress could take up tax reform as their next priority. President Trump has promised to enact the a huge tax cut, but he is expected to face resistance from moderates within his party.

The resistance is mounting within a faction of the GOP because Republicans are finding that the low-tax dogma they espouse either doesn’t work or isn’t favored by voters, said Bruce Bartlett, an economist who served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

“There are massive and growing pressures to spend money on things that people want government to spend money on, and there just isn’t any way of doing that without raising revenue,” Bartlett said. “If you view tax cuts and spending increases as opposites, the trend has moved in the direction of spending, and that has changed the political calculation that raising taxes is a viable option.”

But to hard-liners in the GOP, the actions of Republican defectors like Phillips amount to a betrayal of fundamental party values.

“What’s been exposed is . . . there is this contingent within the GOP of big-government Republicans,” said Dan Proft, an influential Republican strategist and conservative talk show host in Illinois. “They’re afraid to reduce, reshape, rescind benefits that have been conferred even if we can’t afford them.”

Proft is chairman of Liberty Principles, a powerful political action committee allied with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. The PAC endorsed Phillips in 2014 and 2016, but Proft said it will not do so in 2018. “I like Reggie personally, he’s a good guy and a decent legislator, but I think he should retire,” Proft said.

Phillips has not said whether he will run for reelection. Of the 16 Illinois Republicans who voted for the budget compromise last month, six have announced plans to retire, Proft said. Days after the vote, Jeremy Yost, a Charleston businessman and Navy veteran, announced his intention to seek Phillips’s seat, deriding the incumbent as a “taxer and spender” – an attack usually reserved for Democrats.

Phillips, a longtime Republican, said the criticism from the “extreme right” has been infuriating. The son of a factory worker, he supported himself through college doing construction work and now owns a hotel, a number of rental properties and a chain of assisted-living facilities.

In 2014, he decided to seek a seat in the state legislature with the notion that he could make the body run more like a business. He pledged to firmly oppose any tax increase unless it was accompanied by reforms favored by the governor, whose “turnaround agenda” includes spending cuts, reform of workers’ compensation and pensions, and a weakening of labor unions.

Upon taking office, Phillips said, he quickly realized that many of his aspirations were just fantasies while Democrats controlled the legislature. And that even within the Republican Party, it can be hard to be heard when you are a little-known junior House member from a rural district on the Indiana border.

“I suppose I was naive,” Phillips said.

It’s not his only change of heart. Phillips campaigned on a promise to serve only two terms. But now he thinks terms should be limited to three or four so that members have time to gain influence and leadership positions.

The vote to pass the budget in Illinois came amid uniquely bleak circumstances. The Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature had failed for more than two years to agree on a plan to address a gap in revenue and spending, with Rauner focusing on his reform agenda and Democrats insisting on a tax increase.

The impasse left the state $15 billion in debt and on the verge of seeing its credit rating downgraded to junk status. The state had no mechanism to pay what it owed to state agencies and social-service nonprofits, forcing them to take out loans or cut services. Universities, already suffering from plummeting enrollment, shed employees and shaved programs. Dentists all but stopped getting paid by the insurance plan that covers state employees; Illinois owed some of them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With the help of the Republican defectors, the legislature passed a budget last month that included the tax increase but lacked some of Rauner’s reforms, leading the governor to veto it. Then, 11 of those defectors – among them Phillips – helped Democrats override Rauner’s veto.

“If I decide to press my button to override the governor, it doesn’t make me any less a conservative Republican than the rest of the people that stand in here,” Phillips said on the floor before casting his veto override vote, according to a transcript by the Effingham Daily News. Ultimately, one “has to vote for his district.”

The stalemate had particularly squeezed rural communities like Charleston, where many residents are state workers. The town, which has a population of 21,000, was starting to see the trickle-down effect of the woes of its centerpiece, Eastern Illinois University – particularly the layoffs, which numbered more than 300, according to union figures.

Phillips said he held out as long as he could but finally decided to support the budget plan, in large part to rescue the university.

While many constituents thanked him for his vote, the blowback from conservatives was fierce.

Facebook began filling up with angry comments from friends and neighbors, calling him a traitor. In one particularly painful episode, a farmer whose daughter had dated Phillips’s son for four years used crude language to suggest that he was beholden to the Democratic House speaker, Michael J. Madigan.

At the same time, many of those who pressured Phillips to support the budget were less than celebratory.

Jerri Boughan, a dentist from Lawrenceville, had pleaded with Phillips to support the budget. Because a number of her patients are state employees, she said, the government owes her about $120,000. More concerning, she said, was the fact that many of those patients were so embarrassed that their bills were going unpaid that they put off necessary visits.

Despite the budget’s passage, the state has not said how it will reimburse her and other dentists. Yet her employees have already suffered the results of the tax increase.

“I understand why Reggie went across party lines and tried to agree with someone to do something, because we were at a stalemate for three years. Someone had to give,” she said. At the same time, “I hate it for my employees that July 1, wham-bam, thank you, ma’am, they got an automatic 2 percent taken out of their paychecks.”

Kai Hung, a biology professor and faculty union official at Eastern Illinois, said he is grateful that the impasse is over.

On the first floor of the life sciences building, which he said was constructed in 1964, he pointed up at a ceiling of exposed pipes and sagging electrical wires. That, he said, was the result of a modernization project that abruptly stopped when the state budget impasse struck.

“I appreciate their vote,” Hung said of Phillips and other Republican defectors. “But I am not going to forget that for two years before that, they voted knowing . . . the kind of damage they are doing to their communities.”

Today, the legislature is embroiled in another stalemate, this time over schools.

While the July budget authorized funding for K-12 education, lawmakers put off an acrimonious debate about how to divvy up that money across the state. Democrats in the Chicago area are seeking what they view as their students’ fair share, while the governor and Republicans accuse them of seeking a bailout because of the district’s poor handling of the pension system.

This time, Phillips said, he is 100 percent behind the governor and has no plans to cross party lines.

illinois

_____

Keywords: Illinois, Illinois budget, Illinois income tax, Illinois tax increase, Republicans, Republicans voting for taxes, taxes, taxation, Reggie Phillips, Sam Brownback

This Illinois Republican faced a choice: Vote for a tax increase or ‘let it burn.’ | Reading Eagle – AP

UI trustee nominee often gives to GOP candidates

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New UI trustee King.jpg

Photo by: Della Perrone/For The News-Gazette

Dr. Stuart King, a Christie Clinic physician and Champaign resident with three degrees from the University of Illinois, was named Friday, July 21, 2017, to fill one of two vacancies on the UI Board of Trustees.

CHAMPAIGN — Dr. Stuart King, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s latest nominee to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, is a generous donor to mostly Republican candidates, including the governor.

Campaign disclosure records show that King has donated $6,000 to the Citizens for Rauner campaign account, the most recent being a $1,000 contribution in March.

King has given more than $22,000 to Illinois-based campaign accounts for Republicans, including Sens. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Bill Brady and Jason Barickman of Bloomington; former county board member Jeff Kibler; state Rep.Tim Butler, R-Springfield; past Illinois House candidate Kristin Williamson; Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen when she was running for the House in 2011; Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman; Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten; and local Republican Party groups.

King, a Christie Clinic physician, also gave $500 to Don Gerard, the one-time mayor of Champaign, a nonpartisan position. But Gerard is a Democrat.

Nationally, King has given to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana; the Republican National Committee; the Republican Party of Illinois; presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney; and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

It is not unusual for governors to appoint UI trustees who have donated to their campaigns.

Another Rauner appointee, Ramon Cepeda of Darien, gave $250 to the governor’s campaign.

Christopher Kennedy, now a Democratic candidate for governor, but a 2009 appointee of former Gov. Pat Quinn, gave more than $10,000 to Quinn’s campaign.

David Dorris of Bloomington, appointed to the UI board by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, gave $128,500 to Friends of Blagojevich.

Niranjan Shah, another Blagojevich appointee, gave a $240 in-kind contribution to the Blagojevich campaign.

Robert Vickrey of Peru, appointed to the UI board by former Gov. George Ryan, gave the Ryan campaign $250. Kenneth Schmidt, another Ryan appointee, gave Citizens for George Ryan $2,000.

Marjorie Sodemann, a longtime Ryan employee and political ally, gave more than $20,000 to various Ryan campaigns, all of it before she was appointed to the UI board in 2001.

Dave Downey of Champaign, who was appointed to the UI board in 1991 by former Gov. Jim Edgar, gave a $1,000 contribution to the Edgar campaign in 1994.

UI trustee nominee often gives to GOP candidates

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: A clearer picture for SIUC

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We’ve all had the experience.

We’re standing on the shore of a lake or river and a boat passes by in the distance. It takes a while for the wake to reach the shore, but the effects of the disturbance inevitably appear. And, the waves continue lapping at the shore long after the boat has passed.

The State of Illinois went without a budget for two years. While the state did its best to minimize the effects, it was just a matter of time before citizens and institutions felt the wash. There were ripples throughout the past two years, cuts in services and some reduction in staff, but the first waves hit the beach this week.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting this week created some waves of its own, announcing cuts and consolidations in programs.

A case could be made that in light of the ongoing budget crisis, the cuts were overdue. Conversely, waiting until the state passed a budget put the university’s predicament into sharper focus, allowing a more surgical approach to cutbacks.

The Board of Trustees suggested the elimination of seven degree programs — bachelor’s degrees in mining engineering, business economics, physical education teacher education and Africana studies. Master’s programs in mining engineering and political science were also tagged for elimination as well as the doctorate program in historical studies.

First, it’s a shame that any academic programs have to be scuttled. College students are best served when the school of their choice provides the greatest diversity in programs and enrollment. If these programs are ultimately dropped, it will diminish the university.

On the other hand, there is the economic reality of 2017 and two years without a state budget.

The programs slated for elimination have historically not attracted a lot of students. In robust economic times, these programs could be considered a luxury. Given the reality of today — SIU will be receiving $91.4 million in state appropriations for FY 2018, down 10 percent from $101.6 million in FY 2015, the last year the state had a budget.

Clearly, reality dictates minimal luxuries.

Several other cost cutting moves were also announced. SIU will combine several programs into a new College of Media, Design and Fine and Performing Arts. Other areas of study will be rolled into the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Engineering.

The consolidation will make the university a bit leaner and result in administrative savings. As SIU Carbondale’s enrollment continues to drop, changes along these lines were just a matter of time. The financial crunch pushed them to the front burner.

Finally, plans to raze University Towers and begin construction of new student housing were put on hold. The plans for new student housing have been on the books for several years. Eventually, as the towers age, the plan will have to be implemented. But that is the cost of, in this instance, the state not doing business.

The cuts outlined by the Board of Trustees aren’t draconian. To those of us outside the board room, they seem reasonable, although not particularly appealing.

“No one cheers a 10 percent cut, but … we know where we are,” said SIU president Randy Dunn. “It unfreezes things. It’s something we can work with. It’s sustainable. It’s predictable. We can do planning and implementation from that and we’re appreciative of having it.”

As noted earlier, this is the first wave.

The deteriorating financial condition of the state has changed variables for students selecting a university. More cuts are likely to occur before the state turns around. But, as Dunn said, the university now has a clearer picture of at least the immediate future.

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: A clearer picture for SIUC

Illinois’ Public University Problem: NEIU, GSU Presidents Weigh In

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Illinois legislators have finally passed a budget, but the two-year-plus impasse did not leave the state’s public universities unscathed: faculty and staff were laid off, student enrollment dwindled and bond ratings were downgraded.

In March, Northeastern Illinois University announced it would lay off 180 full-time employees to balance out a deficit deepening from lack of state funding during the budget standoff.

In a statement released on July 6, the day Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget package vetoes were overridden by House lawmakers, NEIU’s interim President Richard Helldobler wrote the university “can finally after more than two years refocus its efforts from survival to building and enhancing an exceptional environment for its students.”

A Chicago-Sun Times article published Friday took aim at Helldobler for using university funds to pay for a trip to President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

Using money from the NEIU Foundation, which raises private funds for the school, Helldobler spent nearly $3,000 on a Grand Hyatt hotel room for four nights and close to $1,000 on airfare and two Inaugural Heartland Ball tickets.

Governors State University, located about 30 miles south of Chicago in Will County, will increase its tuition by 15 percent this fall to cope with little-to-no state funding.

The university’s president, Elaine Maimon, said that although the state has a budget, it doesn’t mean Governors State is out of the woods. For that reason, the tuition hike is permanent.

“We’re not going to put on rose-colored glasses,” Maimon said. “The state should be providing us more investment but it doesn’t look as if there’s a pattern for doing that, so it’s looking as if we’re going to have to be more tuition-dependent.”

Maimon pointed out that Governors State’s current full-year tuition, which is $8,160, is still among the most affordable schools in the Chicago area. Starting this fall, the full-year tuition will increase to $9,390.

Helldobler and Maimon join host Phil Ponce to share their perspectives on Illinois’ public universities.


Related stories:

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Illinois’ Public University Problem: NEIU, GSU Presidents Weigh In