SIU students hit state capital to watch budget

By Gus Bode

Jane Huh’s Lobby Day Story

SPRINGFIELD Clad in formal business attire, about 50 SIUC students roamed around the state Capitol in Springfield to seek support in state funding and present a respectable impression of SIU’s student body.

Students from Undergraduate Student Government, a University Honors course and the Black American Studies Department were equipped with informational packets to hand out to their hometown representatives.


I want to let them know what’s going on so they are able to make the right decision, said William Koffie, a junior in business and cinematography from Chicago.

State lawmakers are faced with presenting a budget to the governor before they adjourn in May. It is not an easy task because Illinois faces a projected $1.4 billion shortfall.

Michael Jarard, the USG President-elect, said participating in the event not only sends a strong message to individual state legislators but to students as well.

I’m here to lobby for more money for SIU but I’m also here for several different aspects, he said.

While lobbying the state government for more funding is his main priority at Springfield, Jarard said he hopes his political activism will mark a positive impression on students, especially those who didn’t vote for him in the USG election last week.

Less than a week later, here I am, he said.

Before meeting with individual state legislators, students had an opportunity to meet with legislators including local politicians State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.


Luechtefeld and Bost explained the $1.4 billion state budget shortfall and how it was inevitable that all state-funded programs would bear the brunt of funding cuts. The General Assembly is scheduled to vote on public university funding by May 19.

USG Senator Joel Landry asked the legislators how the University administrators could be held accountable in cases of administrative waste. Rep. James Fowler, D-Harrisburg, said the General Assembly will approve or make some cuts from the requested budget submitted by the University. He said the state government will trust how the University distributes the money, even if the administration decides to use a portion of state funding toward administrative raises.

Once the budget is approved, we’re out of the picture, Fowler said.

Bost said budgetary cuts may seem to target the Southern Illinois region including SIUC because the vast majority of residents in the area are employed through the state government.

So many jobs [in Southern Illinois] are dependent upon government, he said.

The economic recession was compounded by the Sept. 11 attacks, while the state budget was already in the dumps.

The budget was already sliding down, [after Sept. 11] it was driven to the ground, Bost said. The state is funded through income and state tax. When the market slides … it affects the state budget. When they lay people off, therein lies our problem.

The three legislators said the next few weeks will be a tough time of making cuts all across the board.

In order to keep the state running, it takes about $1 billion of new money, Luechtefeld said. Every group feels that they have the most important programs and there’ll be all kinds of proposals and we’ll have to work through them.

Students were pleased with Wednesday’s lobbying at Springfield and said the objective of the event was to put a positive face to the University.

We’re ambassadors for the University and if we’re good ambassadors, then our mission is accomplished, said Nathan Uchtmann, a junior in pre-medicine from Sparta.

Reporter Jane Huh can be reached at [email protected]