WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Sullivan Promises Higher Ed Funding

Macomb, IL – As state universities around Illinois feel the effects of the state's growing fiscal calamity, at least one local lawmaker is stepping in to reassure school administrators.

State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) says it's matter of when, not if, schools receive their backlog of payments.

The state has slowly begun sending money to universities such as Northern Illinois and the University of Illinois, with an outstanding debt of $65 million and $388 million respectively, at the start of the month. The payments helped the schools barely make payroll.

But the state's debt to Western Illinois has actually increased over the past few weeks. Illinois now owes the university a little more than $30 million.

Sullivan, who chairs the Senate's Appropriations II committee, says schools will get their entire appropriation. But funding mandates elsewhere have made on-time payments difficult.

"Education has always been a prioirty, especially early childhood and K-12 education, higher education, not as much," says Sullivan. "But then you start looking at the healthcare providers, nursing homes, doctors, hospitals."

Sullivan says payments to some of the aforementioned health care providers had to be re-prioritized due to the promise of federal stimulus money. He says the state was forced to put them on no more than a 30-day pay cycle, which then pushed some budget priorities back even farther.

The late payments have caused many colleges and universities to implement hiring freezes or other cost cutting measures.