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March 10, 2010

NIU President John G. Peters issues statement on state budget

The budget proposal set forth by Gov. Quinn today foreshadows another difficult and challenging year for higher education in Illinois.

Under this budget plan, appropriations for higher education will be rolled back to pre-2006 levels. For NIU, this represents a reduction of more than $6.7 million, or 6.2 percent. If approved, this budget will further intensify the challenges we have been struggling to overcome for several years.

The austerity measures put in place late last year – a hard hiring freeze for all new and vacant appointments, except for critical hires on the academic side required to help us effectively carry out our primary mission of educating students; asking all departments on campus to reduce spending and to find ways to delay processing of purchases, contracts and appointments until the latest possible point in time so that we can conserve cash; further limiting travel and related expenditures; and limiting maintenance to health- and safety-related projects – all will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Further steps may be required. It is clear that no matter what budget is ultimately approved by the General Assembly for Fiscal Year 2011, it will compel all of us to continue to do more with less.

We will continue to stretch every dollar as far as it can go. As we grapple with this latest round of discouraging fiscal news, our top priority will be, as always, our students and the maintenance of a quality, world-class education. Implicit in that pledge is the understanding that to do so, we must ensure that we have exemplary faculty and staff to educate and support those students.

It is encouraging in the midst of this very difficult financial crisis that Gov. Quinn continued to signal that he grasps the mathematical reality of the state’s budget woes. We simply cannot cut our way out of a $13 billion deficit. The budget deficit is now approximately 50 percent of the state’s annual general revenue fund receipts. Budget cuts alone will not solve the state’s financial crisis. I am pleased that Gov. Quinn recognizes that alternative revenue sources must be part of the ultimate solution. His proposal for a temporary 1 percent surtax to be allocated for education at all levels is an idea worthy of serious consideration. Enacting this or any other revenue-generating proposal will not be easy; the simple fact is that without action from our lawmakers, our problems will only get worse with each passing day.

Of course, the Governor’s budget proposal for FY11 is just that, a proposal. The General Assembly will now hold hearings and discuss the budget, with months of political debate ahead before a final budget is approved. There are no guarantees that our appropriation will not be slashed further. We will continue to keep the campus informed on the budget process in Springfield as it progresses.

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Media Contact: Northern Illinois University
Email: webcommunications@niu.edu