The Daily Illini

Rauner’s budget cuts began making dents since its proposal

By Fatima Farha

Shortly after being sworn into office, Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a new budget for fiscal year 2016, which would cut state funding for many programs, including a major cut in state appropriations for higher education.

Rauner proposed to cut state funding for higher education by 31.5 percent, which would eliminate $209 million cut in state appropriations for the University.

“A budget cut of that magnitude would substantially harm our students and the people of Illinois by most severely impacting the University’s core education and research missions,” President Robert Easter said in a statement.

According to Renee Romano, vice chancellor of student affairs, state appropriations allow for many of the student services on campus.

A decrease in appropriations will lead to significant declines in the kinds of service the University offers, such as the Hirellini initiative, which connects employers with students, along with programs for leadership initiatives or conduct hearings, Romano said.

In a previous Daily Illini interview, Romano said the budget plan was a setback for the University because it will face a budget shortfall after deciding to freeze tuition. Regardless, the tuition freeze will stay in place.

“The University is really committed to trying to keep the cost of education down,” Romano said. “(The cuts) really put the University in a doubly difficult position.”

Rauner’s proposed budget cuts have already affected several services and programs at the University. Last month, he announced that The Autism Programwill no longer receive funds for the rest of fiscal year 15, and will face severe budget cuts for fiscal year 16.

There are 19 TAP facilities run by institutions and not-for-profit organizations, and several will close due to the budget cuts. According to the TAP website, the program provides services for those with autism spectrum disorder. Without the necessary funds, the program will not be able to provide families with resources such as screenings and social therapy.

Aaron Ebata, co-director of the TAP at the University and professor in the department of human and community development, said in a previous interview with The Daily Illini, the center will not be able to hire student interns. TAP interns usually help facilitate program services and assist families.

“The reason TAP was developed was because there was a relative lack of services for families with autism, so this cut will mean that a lot of services won’t be there or some people will have to travel or try and purchase services,” Ebata said. “People who can’t afford insurance, they’re going to be really left with practically nothing.

Rauner’s budget proposal also includes a 4.4 percent cut in the Regional Transportation Authority and an estimated 1.5 billion cut to Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income families.

Local governments will also see a three percent reduction in their overall budget, and $600 million less from state appropriations for the next fiscal year.

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District could also suffer from the proposed budget cuts.

According to Bryan Smith, CUMTD chief operating officer, recently, the CUMTD faced a 20 percent cut in transportation funding; if approved, the $220 million currently provided would be reduced to $150 million.

Smith said the budget cut could lead to a 69,000 hour reduction in CUMTD service, 25,000 of which are provided for University students. The bus system may also have to change some of its routes, which will affect the transportation of many students on campus.

“This isn’t something where we’d just be able to trim expenses without cutting service,” he said in a previous interview with The Daily Illini. “We have two main sources of expense. The first is labor and the second is the cost of running the buses down the road.”

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