Post-election University works to improve relations with public officials


Jeremy Jordan

Senator Scott Bennett addresses the student senate regarding financial issues in the Illini Union on February 3, 2016.

By Megan Jones, Staff Writer

Now that the election season is over, other concerns can re-capture people’s attention. Including the budget impasse and the University’s funding problem.

Lindsay Anderson, executive director for governmental relations for the UI system, updated Board of Trustees members at a subcommittee meeting Wednesday about the office’s next steps.

The office of governmental relations has met over the last few months with over 100 officials as well as sent requests for bringing elected officials to campuses, she said.

“Because so much has been on hold and because of the budget impasse, we expect a lot of public discussions over the next 60 days, not only on the state of Illinois and the budget but on higher education funding and reforms,”Anderson said.

On the state level, there was a special election for Illinois comptroller where City of Chicago clerk and former legislator Susana Mendoza defeated incumbent Leslie Munger, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last year. The comptroller controls the state’s checkbook, which is currently at an impasse.

In the legislature, following unprecedented spending, Illinois Republicans closed the gap in the Illinois General Assembly; however, Democrats will remain the majority in both chambers.

The house Democrats lost their supermajority, but they will continue to be in the majority.

The University of Illinois caucus is comprised of advocates who represent UI such as alumni or parents of students in attendance. A couple of members were lost, Anderson said, such as Munger and State Rep. John Bradley, who were both vocal advocates.

Anderson said at the meeting to stay tuned as the agenda develops this fall as they work with the Illinois caucus, the legislature and University administration.

On the federal side, Republicans retained their majority in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In Congress, Raja Krishnamoorthi, a small businessman, retained Tammy Duckworth’s seat in the 8th district. Duckworth, who won by 14 percentage points, is moving into U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s seat.

The shift toward Republican leadership in Washington was unexpected, Anderson said, and now they will have new faces to potentially build relationships with.

“We will continue to ramp up our efforts, better tell the story of the University, of our growing enrollment and economic impact, our students and their successes and continue to offer solutions and bring people together as that divide that we have is growing between parties,” she said.

One of the strategies to bring people together is to host a breakfast in Washington in September with the National Science Foundation director France Córdova to bring together a bipartisan group of Congress.

“They spoke about the benefits of science and research and how they can work together in the state of Illinois,” she said. “Those conversations are happening under our leadership.”

As the University and state continue to face a budget impasse and “significant change” on the federal level, they will continue to advocate and offer solutions.

Committee Chairman Patrick Fitzgerald reminded members the board is a public body, not a political body.

“It is important for us to stay above politics, but remain conscious of how political changes affects our very important interests both in funding and how things work at the state and federal level,” he said.

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