On March 8, Senate Republican lawmakers attended a joint hearing of the Appropriations I and II Committees on Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed budget. The backdrop for the hearing was Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC).
Senators David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), and Chapin Rose (Mahomet), who were all present at the hearing, represent areas that are affected heavily by Illinois' public university system.
Noting that the Governor’s budget was the first step down the path to final budget, Rose, Righter, and Luechtefeld emphasized that spending reductions and reforms are critical if the state is to fill an anticipated $6 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year. They questioned panelists about their costs relating to workers compensation, unemployment insurance, and other "costs of doing business,” which often take a huge financial chunk away from the average Illinois employer. The lawmakers pointed to these areas as places where significant savings could be realized.
The panelists who testified—including university administrators, representatives from the medical community, human service providers and local government officials—all agreed that their "bottom lines" would be improved if the cost of doing business was reduced in Illinois.
SIUC alone pays millions each year in workers compensation and unemployment insurance costs, costs that redirect resources away from the university’s course offerings and actual student services provided. The service providers in attendance also mentioned that grant funding cuts could be less severe of certain business reforms were undertaken in order to get Illinois' fiscal condition improved.