Governor Pat Quinn's office is touting a one-page analysis claiming higher education will suffer if lawmakers fail to address Illinois' pension problem. In the so-called study, Quinn's budget office estimates that state funding of higher education will steadily decline over the next five years. The projections show more money going toward university and community college employees' pensions, and less going toward schools and scholarships for needy students. Tom Hardy is a spokesman for the University of Illinois. Hardy says in recent years, even as Illinois lawmakers skipped making pension payments, they gave less money to public universities for a variety of OTHER reasons:
"Fiscal crises that the state has endured, recessions, economic downturns, just plain old other priorities."
Hardy says it's unclear to him that alleviating the pension funding problem will lead to more state money for universities and community colleges. The University of Illinois had agreed to support a plan that would require the school pick up the tab for employees' retirement benefits, a cost now paid by the state. But Hardy says that would have to be phased in. Quinn has called a special legislative session for Friday to discuss a pension solution.
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