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New State Budget Holds ISU Funding Steady

Gov. JB Pritzker speaking at news conference
Eric Stock
Gov. JB Pritzker during a stop at Illinois State University in 2020.

As Illinois emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesperson for Illinois State University said the institution is "grateful that there were no reductions" to state funding in the new state budget.

Gov. JB Pritzker's original budget proposal in February called for maintaining funding levels for higher education. While many details of the overall budget changed from the initial proposal to the final version passed through the General Assembly on Tuesday morning, higher education remained comparatively stable.

If the governor signs the budget proposal passed by the General Assembly, ISU would receive $69,619,300 for operational expenses for the fiscal year that runs through June 30 of next year.

"We understand that there are a lot of complicating issues with state budgeting," said ISU Director of Media Relations Eric Jome. "We would all love to see increases for our respective areas, but we realize that's not always going to be the case."

Jome said the stable funding from the state meant a lack of uncertainty going into the university's budget planning process, though he added the university is "not quite to that stage yet of building things" with regard to capital project funding.

The university sought appropriations for projects such as a new Mennonite College of Nursing building and a new engineering building as part of capital requests it made in October of last year.

"We want to make sure that we can kind of get that on the radar of the leaders for consideration in time," said Jome.​​

The budget continues appropriations from previous years allocated for renovations for Milner Library and the College of Fine Arts building.

Overall, Jome said given the funding stability, "things are going to go along pretty smoothly to the average student."

"I think you only realize there's a problem if things really start to fall apart, or if numbers of programs are cut, and people are laid off," said Jome. "Fortunately, we've not had to do any kind of stuff like that."

Asked for comment on the budget, Illinois Board of Higher Education Public Information Officer Melissa Hahn said the agency was "just starting to analyze the bills," a process she said would take a few days.

Jome said ISU and other higher education institutions were "quite pleased" to see continued funding for programs such as MAP grants​ and AIM HIGH grants, which had $479,566,200 and $35,000,000 appropriated, respectively.

While the budget was approved by both houses, Senate President Don Harmon filed a Motion to Reconsider in the early hours of Tuesday, which held the budget from moving forward until the motion was lifted during overtime floor action Tuesday afternoon. Illinois Senate President spokesperson John Patterson told Capitol Fax on Tuesday the motion was "a procedural move to protect our accomplishments from any political shenanigans."

With the motion lifted, the budget will now go to the governor for his potential signature.

Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.