Editorials

SIUE interim chief offers lesson in Illinomics

SIUE interim chancellor Stephen Hansen said state funding in 2002 was 72 percent of the university’s budget. Now it is 40 percent.
SIUE interim chancellor Stephen Hansen said state funding in 2002 was 72 percent of the university’s budget. Now it is 40 percent. snagy@bnd.com

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville interim chancellor Stephen Hansen this past week spoke of the state of the university in terms of the state that our state is in, and the picture is not rosy as we hit Illinois Held Hostage: Day 109.

Early retirement will be offered at SIUE. That is rarely a good thing at a university, where depth of knowledge and teaching ability usually improves over the years.

Hansen is assembling a group from across the university to put a hold on 9 percent of the budget in anticipation of whatever cuts may come when the state legislature eventually passes a 2016 budget. “We cannot afford to fiddle while Springfield burns,” he said.

You would think a state school would be primarily funded by the state, but you’d be very wrong. SIUE was 72 percent state funded in 2002 but now is only 40 percent state funded.

As we saw recently, state Senate President John Cullerton told a Chicago TV station that he doesn’t think Illinoisans pay enough in taxes. He and House Speaker Mike Madigan want to fix finances at SIUE and elsewhere in the state by raising taxes so they can spend $6 billion more than we’d otherwise take in this year.

Recent data from the non-partisan Tax Foundation shows Illinois takes $3,008 per person in taxes, more than any neighboring state and 14th highest in the nation. When it comes to property taxes, we pay the second-highest effective rate in the nation.

Illinois’ court-ordered, auto-pilot method of spending now has backed up $6.9 billion in unpaid bills, and next month’s $560 million pension plan payment will be delayed. State retirees will still get their checks, but the nation’s worst-funded pension system will slip a little more.

How hard do we need to hit what bottom before state lawmakers act?

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