Burzynski voices support for proposal

By Eric Krol

DeKalb’s representative in Springfield voiced his support Thursday for Gov. Jim Edgar’s controversial budget proposal.

Rep. Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, said he is pleased that Edgar insisted on holding the line. Burzynski said he agreed with Edgar’s philosophy that “government cannot be all things to all people.”

Edgar gave his budget request for next year on Tuesday, and the plan immediately came under fire from Democrats and Chicago-area legislators. Edgar’s request calls for substantial cuts in several state agencies, including public aid.

Edgar chose to fund higher education at the same level as this year. However, the funding request includes as its base the 3 percent cut which all state agencies were forced to take in January.

Burzynski said he understood that budget constraints did not allow for increased state higher education dollars. “I’m pleased we were able to keep the same level of funding,” he said. “However, I always push for increased state funding for higher education.”

Edgar’s message did not contain any requests for state university faculty and staff salary increases. Burzynski said he was not sure exactly what Edgar’s budget called for in regards to salaries. “I’m not sure what President (John) La Tourette is doing in regards to that,” he added.

Edgar’s message is only the start of the Springfield budget process. Legislators will have until the end of the fiscal year, June 31, to come up with a budget settlement. Last year, the budget process dragged on past the deadline as both sides gridlocked. House Speaker Michael Madigan has already voiced strong disapproval of the proposal.

Burzynski said it is too early to tell if this year’s process will be less painful. “We have two-and-a-half months to work something out,” he said.

However, there has been some fear that higher education will take a hit this year after being spared the budget ax last year. “Remembering last year, the Democrats were opposed to any cuts in education,” Burzynski said. “We’re hopeful they’ll maintain the same line this year.”

Edgar’s message also called for a special committee co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra to look at the structure of higher education. Burzynski said he does not yet know if he will serve on the committee but added that he was pleased Edgar chose to look at an area of potential savings.

Burzynski is cosponsoring a bill which would eliminate NIU’s governing board, the Board of Regents. La Tourette and Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves have dismissed the bill as election year grandstanding. However, with Kustra already voicing support for the bill and the state in dire financial straits, Burzynski said he thinks the bill has a definite chance of passing.

“The governor (by forming the committee) has basically echoed Kustra’s statements,” Burzynski said.