Wednesday, May 18, 2016

State inaction and local effects

Lot's of "news" coming out of Springfield, but very little action, and the mood seems to be turning less optimistic.

On Monday Governor Rauner, as expected, vetoed a bill that would have mandated arbitration in the event negotiations between AFSCME and the State (i.e., Rauner) break down. He provides his reasons in a letter to state employees--one sent via the media. Rauner would rather impose terms himself, as he's arguing that negotiations have in fact reached an impasse, something AFSCME denies. If the ILRB (Illinois Labor Review Board) rules in Rauner's favor, he'll be able to impose terms on AFSCME, which will give SIU employees a choice between reduced health benefits or a doubling of insurance premiums.

A meeting on Tuesday between Rauner and the four legislative leaders appeared to produce some movement, with House Speaker Madigan agreeing to at least appoint folks to serve on a committee discussing Rauner's reform agenda. Rauner has consistently said that he will support a budget compromise with new revenues (which all seem to agree is the only way to balance the budget) only if some such reforms are passed. But subsequent statements by Madigan show little wiggle room. Madigan for his part got the House to pass funding for MAP grants, but Republicans reject the measure because it does not identify a funding source.

So the burst of optimism we saw after the stop-gap funding for universities was passed last month seems to have evaporated. A Democratic leader in the House said today, as others have previously, that the state may never get a budget under Rauner.

No wonder that SIU President Randy Dunn noted that he is not optimistic about a budget deal by the May 31 deadline. After that date a 3/5 vote is required to pass a budget, making it still harder to get votes for a plan that would need to include a tax increase.

Dunn noted that while some peers have said they will need to dip into "restricted funds" in order to keep the doors open this summer, SIU "as a system" isn't that badly off. We can "stay afloat" through  November if we get more stopgap funding. He seems to be relatively optimistic that we will get that sort of funding, but the only measure in that line he indicated was the House MAP grant bill, whose prospects are not good, as he noted. While we may not be dipping into restricted funds as some other campuses are, Dunn did say that further cuts may be required, even with additional stopgap funding, especially on the Carbondale campus.

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