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September 19, 2005

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.05.13 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, May 20, 2005.

The FAC meeting at Illinois State University began with a welcome by President Al Bowman.  He thanked the group for its work on behalf of higher education.  He noted that with the loss of $48M in state support at ISU it is an “incredible challenge to keep things going.” He stressed the value of cooperation by the public university presidents and the work of Interim BHE Director Tom Lamont, a “good advocate and politically astute.”  There is now greater awareness in the legislature of the challenges higher education faces and its key importance to economic development than true in the recent past.  Thus, as the economic climate improves they will be ready to reinvest in higher education.  He was the one public university president who did not support a letter endorsing concepts in SB755 because he believes the guarantee to elementary and secondary education will cause greater erosion of funds available to higher education in the next economic downturn. He believes that HB/SB 750 and the amended SB750 will die. ISU will see double-digit tuition increases for the next several years.  We need to get the message out that the tuition increases are the result of the actions in Springfield.  Eventually we will recognize that the state and the nation are losing our competitive edge by failing to support higher education.

Lane Crothers, chair of the ISU Senate, described their senate and the work of the CIUS—the faculty senate presidents of the public universities that meet twice a year.

Don Sevener, IBHE Director of External Relations gave a legislative update. The budget situation is very fluid without a clear indication whether the session will continue beyond the May 31 deadline for budget action by a simple majority.  The top leaders have been meeting and some progress being made.  There will be changes in the pension plans but these will not affect current retirees. The legislation on pension only became available this week. He expects there will be a gaming bill with some expansion of gaming slots to fill part of the budget hole.  Most tax changes proposed by the governor will not pass although there may be some tightening of loopholes.  Projected revenues for next year have risen meaning the deficit hole is smaller.  But the problem is that if we only get rid of the deficit there is no money for education.  The Republican caucus supports the BHE budget providing a minimal increase for higher ed.  There is no movement on the capital budget, always handled late in the process.  Any agreement will be a “very fragile house of cards” so it will be bundled together so no one piece can be changed.

In terms of other issues, the effort to raise high school graduation standards has opposition in the House because the Republicans see it as an unfunded mandate that will cost many districts money they don’t have.  The bill on textbook rentals is dead and no action on stem cell research and energy costs.  At this time the Speaker of the House is opposed to an Inspector General assigned to education and that effort is dead for the year.  He expects the SB755 will not be called for a vote because it does not have 36 votes: as of the 19th it had 32.  The general consensus is that it will not pass.  And if not this year, tax reform/change is less likely in the future.  Next year is an election year and by the following year the economic upturn will eliminate some of the pressure. This year may be the only year in the near term when a tax increase could be passed.

During the very brief business meeting, the nominations for FAC offices for 2005-06 were made with the election to be by email. Letters to be sent on behalf of the FAC to the legislators and to the legislative leadership were approved.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative