Countryman speaks on budget cuts

By Jim Wozniak

State Rep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, told the Board of Regents Friday the Regency system needs to continue communicating its needs to the legislature if it hopes to receive any money this fall.

Countryman, who earlier said the Regents do not understand the legislative process, spoke after the board approved a $150 tuition increase for the spring semester. The speech came after the Regents passed a resolution saying the board “objects to the insufficient funding provided higher education in Illinois.”

“I’m only reminded that when I was a student here 20 years ago, my tuition was less than $150 a semester,” Countryman said. “I will continue to persist in the issue of solving underfunding.”

Countryman said legislators have received pressure from other groups besides higher education—including an over-filled prison in Pontiac and the Department of Mental Health—for more funds.

“I recognize the resolution. But you need to be aware you’re in a cesspool of desires,” he said. “I also regret to say that the rest of the legislature feels the solution is a tuition increase. I think what needs to be done is for everyone to communicate those concerns to those in the legislature.”

Countryman said relief for Pontiac and elementary and secondary education rank higher on the priority list with the legislature if supplemental funding becomes available. The reason higher education ranks below the other two is the presence of more school boards and constituents for those groups, he said.

Countryman said when all education is considered together, it ranks high on legislators’ lists. He said he could not estimate how many legislators support supplemental funding for higher education, but he said an identifiable percentage in the House is between 20 and 30 percent.

Illinois State University Student Regent Chuck Sutton said now that the Regents have implemented the tuition hike, the student Regents will have to push for students to participate in the Illinois Student Association’s Day of Action Oct. 21. One part of the Day of Action is a student and faculty strike.

Countryman said, “I’ve told (Student Association President) Jim Fischer that they would do better with letters,” he said. “The individual contact is much more effective than marching around the campus.”