At the end of May, the Illinois General Assembly concluded its Spring 2014 legislative session and is scheduled to remain adjourned until after the Nov. 4 general election.  Illinois Connection advocates played a key role in passing several of the items on the University's legislative agenda.  Through in-district meetings, phone calls, letters, emails and at our annual lobby day, legislators heard loud and clear that their constituents care about the University of Illinois. Below are the outcomes of some of the U of I's key legislative issues:
 
Budget
The good news about the budget is that, for the second consecutive year, lawmakers enacted a budget with a level funding appropriation for the University of Illinois of approximately $662 million. The bad news is that the fiscal 2015 budget sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his approval is unbalanced, and a reconciliation of spending and income tax revenue must be made in the fall legislative session following the election.

This means the fiscal 2015 budget situation remains fluid and uncertain, and a mid-year reduction in the appropriation is possible. However, the University of Illinois has demonstrated in recent years that it is adept at managing its resources and making its case for support, which coincide with the best interests of the state.
Indeed, holding the appropriation steady—no increase, no cut—was the University’s top legislative priority in Springfield during the spring session. A steady, predictable level of state support to help pay salaries and operate facilities is critical to fulfilling our core mission to provide an excellent education to tens of thousands of students. We’ve managed to sustain the University’s high quality, limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation, provide salary programs, and maintain our facilities despite late payments by the state and other vagaries of Illinois’ fiscal condition.
 
Pension Glitch Fix
First, thanks in part to your calls and emails to state legislators voicing your support for the unintended glitch in the wording of SB1, the state’s public pension funding law, the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) approved an emergency rule that will preserve benefits employees have already earned under the “money purchase” option.  The University is hoping this fix will help retain those key faculty and staff who may have been considering retiring this year.
 
Pension Ruling
 As you may know, a Sangamon County judge postponed the scheduled June 1 implementation of the state’s new pension law until constitutional challenges can be decided by the courts. Depending on how courts rule, provisions of the new law may still be implemented sometime in the future. But for now, the ruling preserves the current pension system and provides some assurance for employees who were considering retirement before June 30, 2014, to avoid losing benefits they had already earned. The University is hopeful that those who were considering retirement will now decide to stay on and share their talents to benefit the University, our students and our state.  Those who have already submitted their intent to resign can contact their supervisor if they wish to stay now that this ruling has been made.  The University will make every effort to consider their request.
 
Regulatory Reform
Another legislative priority for the U of I was regulatory relief to cut the red tape that increases our costs and lowers our competitiveness. We succeeded in streamlining the procurement process for specialized medical supplies in our vast health care and medical teaching enterprise, and in ensuring accountability of state-appropriated grants without entangling the U of I’s nearly $1 billion  research portfolio. We will continue to make the case for regulatory reform in upcoming legislative sessions.
The successes this legislative session would not have been possible without your efforts and advocacy!  Thank you for continuing to be a strong voice on behalf of the University of Illinois and higher education.
 

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