Legislature’s next stop? Disneyland!

Quickie History Lesson No. 404: Last summer legislators voted down a complex tax increase package. Governor Jim Thompson followed up this action by slashing the state budget. Higher education lost $53 million dollars. NIU lost $11 million from its proposed budget, ending up with $3.3 million less than it had to work with last year—which wasn’t enough to begin with.

When the Board of Regents said they couldn’t operate the university properly on such a low level of funding, the legislature said, “So, get it from the students. Raise your tuition.” Everyone knows how this lesson ends.

Now, as it turns out, in order for the university to spend the money from the tuition increase as it comes in, the General Assembly has to pass a special law saying it’s okay. What a novel concept. Raise tuition—and then spend it.

It’s positively ridiculous there is even the need for a special bill to make it possible for the university to spend the revenues raised by the tuition increase.

The Regents have the power to raise tuition. The university has the responsibility for collecting it. It makes no sense at all for the university to have to get permission to spend the money the legislature forced it to find from another source in the first place.

What’s worse, it’s possible the bill won’t pass. As usual the legislators are amending it to death, attaching everything from funding for a state-funded boarding school for gifted children to research money for Alzheimer’s disease. Not that these aren’t worthy funding recipients. They are.

But really—first things first. Students at NIU are forking over an extra $150 each next semester. Whether they end up immediately benefitting from it should not depend on whether some professor at some university in the state gets a research grant to study aging.

In fact, under no circumstances should it depend on anything at all. Students are paying the money to try to salvage their educations. The state should spend it on their educations. No buts—and no amendments.

President LaTourette has said if the General Assembly fails to pass this bill, NIU might have to shut down for four weeks in the spring to save money.

If the General Assembly fails to pass this bill, students should refuse to pay the $150 increase. Instead, everyone should pitch in $1 for a fund to buy all the legislators a pair of Mickey Mouse ears of their very own.