The focus of the State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA) during the spring legislative session was working to overturn Public Act 98-0599 (Senate Bill 1). The SUAA was most pleased when its attorney was selected to argue before the state Supreme Court, which in turn determined the law to be unconstitutional. This decision will continue to protect Tier I pension participants and recipients.
Once again the idea of removing the 50 percent tuition waivers for university employees’ children came to the forefront. SUAA received over 230 responses from university staff in less than 24 hours providing personal testimonies about the importance of these tuition waivers. Letters to the editor were written to newspapers and also available as written testimony for the legislative hearings. Rep. Jack Franks has put the waivers on hold until the spring session, when it is suspected that he will come back in full force to once again try to remove this benefit.
Due to the impasse of the state budget, 90 percent of the line items are being paid by court order. Without an agreement, the second semester Map Grant students and the universities are harmed financially. This is on top of the 31.5 percent budget cuts to the universities for operating expenses. Because of these two financial problems, SUAA has been working with other interested education partners to make sure that higher education is not downgraded by the legislative bodies and other policymakers. SUAA believes that higher education is a commodity for this state that should not be overlooked. Without an educated workforce, corporations will not see Illinois as a suitable choice for them to build their organizations.
Another legislative effort was working to keep Amtrak funding from being further reduced. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget provides for a 40 percent reduction in this area, which would cause Amtrak to cut a number of scheduled runs to Downstate Illinois. Again, SUAA provided information to legislators and a press release to bring the importance of Amtrak to the forefront for students attending our universities and community colleges. Without this transportation, international students and those from Northern Illinois alike would find their campus choices limited, as there would be fewer train schedules to reach the Downstate campuses.
We urge Council members to take a closer look at SUAA as the advocacy organization that works on behalf of all SURS participants and recipients. SUAA works quite closely with State Universities Retirement System (SURS). Everyone is invited to be a member of SUAA. Contact Linda@suaa.org or visit suaa.org or more information.