May 15, 2012

Members of the University of Illinois community:

The Illinois General Assembly is entering the final three weeks of its scheduled spring session, and most of the major issues still to be addressed could have a serious impact on the University of Illinois and our dedicated employees. Among those we are paying especially close attention to are: our state general revenue appropriation, stabilization of the public pension system, Medicaid funding for our hospital, and provisions for rehiring retirees.

The common denominator, of course, is the state's continuing fiscal crisis. Other issues are in the Springfield mix, too, but we have identified the dominant subjects in what long-time observers agree has been the most challenging and potentially momentous legislative session in decades.

Along with our governmental relations staff, we have been advocating strongly on behalf of the University, its employees, alumni, annuitants, and the state of Illinois, and we will continue to do so in the closing weeks. We welcome your support. You have every right as an individual to make your feelings known as well.

Public pension funding is the dominant issue and changes to the state pension systems likely will be made during this session, with litigation to follow. Last year the U of I helped to stop a bill that would have imposed an unfair burden on employees for solving the pension funding crisis. Meantime, we have proposed alternatives and worked with leaders from the other public universities to mitigate the most onerous aspects of pension stabilization plans being considered in Springfield. The University Senates Conference last month endorsed principles and objectives for a viable pension funding solution that reflect the arguments we have presented to elected officials.

An example of the legislative pace in Springfield occurred last week with the quick passage of Senate Bill 1313, which requires retired state employees -- including those from universities -- to pay a portion of the health insurance premium that the state currently covers. The University formally opposed the bill. But soon after the proposal surfaced, the legislation passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate on back-to-back days. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign it into law. The law requires an annual process for setting the premiums, which will allow the University, employees and annuitants to provide input.

While another successful academic year has just wrapped up, important work remains to be completed in Springfield. Our team will continue to represent the University's interest, and we will keep you informed.

Michael J. Hogan, President
Robert A. Easter, President-designate


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