Historic Budget Impasse Ends
The 736-day budget impasse in Illinois ended Thursday afternoon when the Illinois House voted 71-42 to override Governor Bruce Rauner's vetoes of a spending package that imposes personal and corporate income tax increases and establishes a long-awaited budget for the state.
In a statement, GSU President Elaine P. Maimon said, "We should pause to honor the work of so many students, faculty, trustees, and staff across the state who worked tirelessly to address the increasing pressure that the budget crisis created for our campuses. I want to thank our campus community for your hard work and sacrifice that have kept us going through these unprecedented times."
The fight for higher ed began even before the stalemate started on July 1, 2015. In February 2015, funding for public universities like GSU had been placed on the state's chopping block, causing early ripples of concern to radiate through the higher education community. By January 2016--six full months into the stalemate--GSU leadership was speaking out about the growing crisis, and by spring, students had joined the fight to save higher ed and were rallying. Those high-profile efforts continued throughout the crisis, and behind the scenes, the work was nonstop.
Maureen Kelly, Director of Governmental and Community Relations for GSU, stayed on the front lines and worked with peers from sister institutions in the state as well as legislators in Springfield.
"There's a tremendous sense of relief that we’ve finally gotten to this point," she said. "The last two years have been beyond challenging and frustrating, but I am fortunate that I work really closely with my counterparts at all the other public universities, and I think we're a strong team. Whenever we could, we stood together and presented a unified front."
Kelly also stressed that over the course of the last two years, the state senators and other legislators who represent GSU and the region advocated unwaveringly for the university.
"My job was made easier because at every single turn, those who represent GSU and our region were always, always voting in support of us. I would like the campus community to know how supportive the people who represent our university are and always have been," Kelly said.
Faculty member Dan Nearing, founder and coordinator of the MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging, said that he felt "elation, relief, and sorrow that any of it had to happen."
"With respect to teaching and supporting our students, consequences for the filmmaking program at GSU have been harsh," Nearing said. "It will take time to repair the damage, but we find ourselves at the beginning of a rebuilding process that excites us."
So what does this mean for funding at GSU? According to Kimberly Lambert-Thomas, Vice President of Administration and Finance, GSU will see a "10 percent reduction of the last full year state appropriation in FY15." GSU will receive a $21.6 million state appropriation for FY18. Thomas also said that $364 million was allocated for MAP funding statewide, but no disbursement has been officially decided.
"Public higher education has been tested in the worst circumstance possible," Dr. Maimon said, "and GSU faculty and staff have been heroic. No matter what has been thrown at us, we’ve maintained our core values in terms of students being first at GSU. Now we can focus on recovery and resurgence."