U of I officials, city leaders criticize Rauner's budget plan

URBANA--It was a packed house as members of the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee brought their on-the-road hearings on Governor Bruce Rauner's budget to the University of Illinois's Illini Union Wednesday.

The first item on the agenda was a discussion about how proposed funding cuts would impact their host.

"We've seen already the steady decline from state support since the 1960's," said UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise. "But this last proposal is truly draconian."

The U of I faces a 31.5 percent reduction in state funding, which amounts to $208 million in cuts across all its campuses next year alone.

Wise says that would motivate faculty to leave and make it harder for students to attend, either because of decreases in financial aid or increases in the cost of tuition. It would also make it harder to attract federal grants and grow research-based businesses.

"We have already seen in the last two weeks grant funding suspended for several of our entrepreneurship programs," said Laura Frerichs, UIUC's Director of Economic Development.

Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) reminded those testifying that the cuts, and where they'll be made, are not official yet.

"This is not an ultimatum, a final," said Rose. "In fact it's an opportunity for us to do some other things to save, not only the taxpayers but the students some money."

A panel of local city leaders also prepared remarks about how Rauner's proposal to cut their share of the income tax from eight percent to four would cost local governments across the state a combined $600 million.

"We are in this together," said Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer. "But I beg you not to sink the local ship while trying to keep the state afloat."

The state Senate will be back in session Tuesday after a two-week spring break. The fiscal year for 2016 begins July 1st.
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