Students to lobby at the Capitol for the U of I
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On April 10, the Student Government Association (SGA) wants you to make a difference. The University of Illinois is sponsoring a “Day at the Capitol” for an organized lobbying effort. All three campuses will have attendees and will be well-represented when they address lawmakers.
Riley Quinlan, external vice-president of the SGA, outlined the goals for the session on Thursday. “MAP grants are very important, as well as pensions,” Quinlan said. “Pensions are key because nothing will happen until that is cleared up.”
Illinois’ five pension systems are short a combined total of $96.7 billion needed to cover all of the state retirement obligations – pensions and benefits for current and former workers. Over many years, the state has either skipped outright or short-changed pension payments while scooping funds from the pension funds for discretionary projects.
Governor Pat Quinn released a statement on March 25 that the new pension proposal must include a clause which states the state cannot legally skip out on its’ payments ever again. “The state can never ever again not pay what it should pay every year to the pension account. That’s why we’re in this situation,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago.
As far as MAP grants, the program is underfunded by at least $200 million and the aid provided runs out earlier and earlier each year. This year, the deadline was moved up a month to March 1 from April 3 in 2012. According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, “each academic year, the amount of your maximum annual award will be the least of (1) the eligible amount as determined by an analysis of financial circumstances, (2) the maximum amount which ISAC allows for tuition and fees at the college, or (3) $4,968.”
Quinlan wishes to impress the spirit of civic responsibility on both politicians and students with this program. From the event’s website, the goals are “[encouraging] students to participate because they provide great passion and knowledge toward the importance of the University of Illinois.”
Not all students find the Lobby Day to be as good an idea as Quinlan. Bridget Maloney, a women and gender studies major, is certainly not a fan. She finds lobby day to be a waste of time, because “the lobby day includes all three Illinois campuses, UIS gets 3 percent of the money that goes to the Illinois system, and for UIS students to go lobby is putting more money into UIUC that we should have here.”
Maloney is a member of the Model Illinois Government and highly interested in local political issues, particularly those which affect the University she wishes to graduate from. “UIUC is a larger campus, but at the same time, they are taking more than their fair share of the money given to the whole U of I system,” Maloney said.
Nathan Tarr, a political science major at UIS and Model Illinois Government’s 2013 Speaker of the House, agrees. “UIS has been receiving a smaller and smaller share of the money that is given to the U of I system. We shouldn’t be using UIS students to get UIUC more money. We should be advocating for each university in the U of I system to be given their own separate funding from the state,” Tarr said.
For students interested in lobby day, the event itself is free and transportation will be provided by the SGA. The student group with the largest attendance at the event will win a $250 gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings.
The first caravan will depart from the PAC teardrop loading zone at 10:45 a.m. for the capitol. A second departure will take place at 1:45 p.m. for those students with late-morning classes. Registration is encouraged for attendees, and the registration is done online at www.ic.uillinois.edu/lobbyday/. Meals are provided at no cost, and vegetarian options are available.