Rauner’s budget proposal ‘concerning’ state university presidents

DeKALB — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s fiscal year 2019 budget included cuts to public schools’ pensions and health care expenses.

During his Wednesday State of the Budget address, Rauner said pensions and employee group health expenses have grown, costing the state 25 cents per every dollar spent. Rauner’s four-year plan to cut pensions and health care for those in higher education, as well as public schools in the state, would be phased in at 25 percent increments per year.

“These shifts will save the state $696 million this year,” Rauner said.

The reduced spending could be used to eliminate Illinois’ $2 billion deficit without needing to enact new taxes, Rauner said.

“This is the kind of financial accountability that Illinois taxpayers expect,” Rauner said. “It is time we lived up to their expectations.”

Pensions and employee group health expenses cost the state more money during fiscal year 2018 compared to K-12 education, Rauner said. The fiscal year 2019 budget would shift those expenses onto those “who do the buying and make them responsible for the paying,” Rauner said.

Matt Streb, Board of Trustees liaison, said Rauner’s proposal to shift pensions and health care costs onto the university “is a major concern” for the other university presidents during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting. He said the governor’s four-year reduction strategy also included a spending cushion.

“Rauner’s budget would provide the university with $82 million in state funding, 1.9 percent lower than the university’s requested budget proposal to the Illinois Board of Higher Education,” Streb said.

“I want to be very clear what the governor proposed yesterday is the first step in a long process, and what could come out ultimately could be very different,” Streb said.