DeKALB – Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker used a recent address to reassure the community that the state’s budget impasse, which has stretched into its seventh month, wouldn’t affect the university’s operations this fiscal year.
“In spite of the severe challenges for some schools, let me reassure you that NIU will fully operate through the fiscal year,” Baker said.
Baker said he expects the state to pass a budget this spring, before the university’s fiscal year ends June 30. He also plans to host a town hall meeting to discuss the budget in mid-February. University officials said a date for that meeting hadn’t been set as of Monday.
“My sense today is that there will be a workable state budget resolution sometime this spring,” he wrote. “We hope the budget bill will pass fairly soon in advance of the March primary elections. If not, it likely will pass later in the spring as the impact of the political stalemate becomes more obvious and the continued operations of some of our fellow community colleges and universities is threatened.”
He said Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers were unlikely to enter another year without a budget.
“I am confident that the members of the executive and legislative branches of our state government understand the importance of higher education,” Baker said. “I also believe that Illinois will not cross into a second year without a budget. The consequences are far too dire to state and local economies and the social fabric of Illinois.”
Baker said the university’s strong financial position was the result of “ hard-working faculty and staff.”
“That dedicated work has been done over a period of years when our operating budgets declined and wages and salaries have been frozen,” Baker said. “Our students have been well served in the face of significant challenges, and I’m deeply grateful for that. As soon as the state budget is clarified, we will address compensation challenges as best we can.”
Last week, Baker and eight other Illinois university presidents said in a letter to Rauner and legislative leaders that a failure to approve a budget soon could leave higher education damaged beyond repair.
“Our message issued a clear warning of the catastrophic results of prolonged gridlock while it also detailed the benefits of our shared purpose,” Baker said.
Baker has addressed the budget stalemate several times since Rauner, a Republican, and the Democratically controlled state legislature failed to approve a spending plan in June.