La Tourette addresses proposed budget impact

By Jami Peterson

With Gov. Jim Edgar’s budget recommendations casting a shadow over NIU’s funds and putting a lid on any state support for salary jumps, NIU President John La Tourette discussed the reality of difficult times ahead.

La Tourette explained the impact of Edgar’s budget address Friday to members of the Committee on Organization, Productivity and Salaries (OPS).

Edgar called for the higher education budget, which is about $1.6 billion, to keep a steady beat next year. However, the suggestion makes two budget recisions from July and January permanent fixtures in next year’s base budget.

La Tourette said next year’s budget will be about $3.7 million less than the base budget in 1991. “It’s a little bit of smoke in mirrors that this budget protects higher education,” he said. “It’s not a good one (budget address).”

La Tourette breathed a sigh of relief that NIU has been preparing for the budget down-slide since February with a plan to reallocate money and reduce spending.

“The funds are gone and they’re gone forever,” he said. “Now we’re kind of against the wall here.”

La Tourette said the forming of the two budget committees, including OPS and the Academic Resource Advisory Committee, in which all academic offices and colleges are identifying 5 percent of their budgets for reallocation, was “very prudent” to the university.

Edgar also recommended $100 million to be used to catch up to the state insurance payment plan for faculty members, La Tourette said. “I’m not sure $100 million is an adequate amount.”

However, he said, the amount will make a “substantial contribution to most medical suppliers in the community to work out payment plans.”

The $50 million recommended by Edgar for the state retirement fund (SURS) is “a one-shot type of thing,” in which the state might seize unclaimed assets, he said.

La Tourette also said NIU should be prepared for the “blue ribbon committee” which Edgar formed to make sure higher education is operating effectively and to determine whether the system, which contains several governing boards, should be streamlined.

“We need to make sure there is good representation on that blue ribbon committee,” he said.

He said the complete result of Edgar’s address is not known yet. “There are a lot of things in the wind right now,” he said. “Its (impact on NIU) is on the table now.”