Gov. Quinn delivers annual budget address



By Joe Palmer and Kelly Bauer

Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his annual budget address Wednesday, which included a proposal for a $50 million increase in Monetary Award Program (MAP) funding.

The address outlined the state’s 2013 budget and included changes and cuts to the state’s spending plans.

“This budget contains truths you may not want to hear,” Quinn said in his address. “But these are truths that you do need to know. And I believe you can handle the truth.”

If the $50 million increase to MAP funding was approved, the program would have a total of $436,680,000 in state award grants to eligible students.

“I’m in favor of that,” said NIU President John Peters at Wednesday’s University Council meeting. “A lot of students just can’t afford a good education anymore.”

Need-based financial aid is given to about 8,100 NIU students. Of those students, about 5,000 receive MAP funding from the state, according to university financial aid reports. At the University Council meeting, Peters said an estimated 140,000 students across Illinois use MAP grants, and about 140,000 more are eligible for, and want, MAP funding.

MAP grants account for a large portion of student aid, and can make a difference in a student’s ability to pay for schooling, said junior accountancy major Cristine Estrada.

“The state has helped me a lot, and without aid like the MAP grant, I would not be in college,” Estrada said. “Having an increase in MAP funding would be a huge benefit for students that need assistance in paying for education.”

Quinn also spoke about solutions and proposals for the state’s pensioning system. The system is an issue that has been plaguing Illinois for decades, Quinn said.

“The lack of fiscal accountability has cost us dearly,” Quinn said in his address. “We must stabilize and strengthen our pension systems to prevent them from swallowing up our core programs in education, health care and public safety, and to ensure that we can pay all our bills.”

Peters said NIU is approaching $60 million in unfunded liability. Peters said the ongoing pension problems within Illinois are “of great interest” to NIU and its professors.

“It behooves you to understand this,” Peters said. “It behooves you to make the right choices. These things add up over the years.”

During the University Council meeting, Steve Cunningham, Vice President of human resources and compliance, said there have been dozens of bills introduced to deal with the pension system, and different aspects of these bills will probably be combined into an omnibus bill.

“The general assembly now will more than likely be the one that makes changes to the structure and funding of the pension system,” Cunningham said.

Some lawmakers, such as State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, feel Quinn’s proposed budget does little to actually cut spending on the state level.

“The budget that he’s going to release increases spending over the one that runs a deficit this year,” Murphy said.

Paul Palian, NIU Media and Public Relations director, said he feels the address covered the major problems affecting the state.

“The governor effectively laid out the problems related to budgeting and pensioning in Illinois,” Palian said.

The money is expected to be reallocated from state ventures, after other proposed actions, such as the prison shutdowns, have taken place.

Peters said he expected that funding would also come from Quinn’s closing of several tax loopholes.

For more information on the school’s budgeting plans and state funding, visit the NIU budget website at