Lawmakers Discuss Higher Education Funding, Pensions

May 30, 2013

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Credit Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Democrats continued approving a new state budget on party-line votes. The Senate approved spending plans for education --  from elementary and high schools to colleges and universities -- with funding pretty much at last year's level.

Cuts proposed earlier this year by Governor Pat Quinn did not materialize, partly because Illinois collected more tax money than it expected in April.

Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, says funding for higher education is critical because it's tied to the problem of unemployment.

"If you don't have a college degree in the state of Illinois, the unemployment rate is 20 percent. Twenty percent -- it's off the charts. But if you do have a college degree, it's six percent." -Sen. Dan Kotowski

Northern and Southern Illinois universities saw slight decreases -- in the tens of thousands of dollars out of budgets that are respectively $93 million and $203 million.

Most state universities would see fractional increases -- U-of-I's appropriation would increase by .02 percent.

Chicago State and Western Illinois universities saw the biggest increases -- greater than one percent.

In the House...Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz says she's prepared a bill that requires state universities and community colleges to start paying their own pension costs. The heads of several institutions agreed to the idea earlier this month. 

Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report.