News Local/State

U of I Trustees Wrap-Up: $180K Bonus For Easter, Gov. Quinn’s Budget Pitch, Med School Plans


University of Illinois Trustees Thursday apporoved $180,000 in incentive-based compensation for President Bob Easter.  That amount would be paid to the president within 30 days.

His current salary is just over $478,000. Easter received a 3.5 percent raise last September. Trustees also approved a $90,000 bonus for Easter last fall. 

"President Easter's leadership has been instrumental in both maintaining the University's excellence and charting a course for the future that will continue its long, rich legacy of service to our students, our state, and our nation," said U of I Trustees Chair Christopher Kennedy, in a press release. 

Easter plans to retire at the end of June 2015.  Trustees this week have reportedly been interviewing candidates to succeed him, and are expected to name that person soon.

Quinn's Last Meeting

Governor Pat Quinn stopped by the Board of Trustees meeting, his last appearance an an ex-officio member. 

The governor made a final pitch to extend the 2011 temporary state income tax hike, which is scheduled to drop beginning January 1st. Quinn says his budget plan -- which was not approved by lawmakers in the Spring -- included a boost in funds for the state's public colleges and universities.

"As you know, I proposed a budget this year that would've done, I think, important things for higher education across our state," he said. "I really feel that was the right thing to do. I don't apologize for it, I think we need to use our revenues in Illinois in a way that makes our state a better place to live."

Quinn also thanked three outgoing members of the board, including Chairman Chris Kennedy (a Quinn campaign supporter), who the governor appointed to the position after the University's "Category I" admissions scandal, where the Urbana campus gave special preference to politically connected applicants, at times admitting those students over better-qualified applicants.

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has the power to fill holes on the Board when he gains control of the governor's mansion in January.

Income Tax Concerns

Before leaving, Quinn also gave a last appeal for extending the 2011 temporary state income tax hike.

U of I officials said they're worried about the expiration of the state's temporary income tax hike, set to roll back partially in the New Year. The reduction could spell $70 million dollars less for U of I next year, which represents about 1 percent of the University's total operating budget.

During his re-election campaign, Quinn said he thought he could persuade lawmakers to extend the 2011 income tax hike it in November or December, during the General Assembly's veto session. But Quinn was defeated by Rauner last week, and Rauner says he wants to reduce the tax over time.

Kennedy expressed concern about the financial impact of the tax's sunset at the meeting, asking U of I's Chief Financial Officer, Walter Knorr, about potential consequences.. 

Kennedy: "Can you explain what happens if the income tax is not dealt with in the veto session."
Knorr:  "That would end up being about a 10.6 percent cut or impact on us, which would be about $70 million dollars, basically..."
Kennedy: "About what?"
Knorr: "70. $70 million."

Knorr said the state's pension debt is also taking a toll on the University.

Competing Med School Plans

Trustees will consider two competing proposals for medical schools in the Spring. The Urbana campus is proposing an engineering-based medical school, while the Chicago campus wants to expand their existing med school, and add a bioengineering institute. 

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise has pushed for a new med school, which would be geared toward engineering-focused approaches to medicine. 

Engineering professor Rashid Bashir told the Board the med school would be an opportunity for the University to be a leader in modern medicine.

"Our healthcare system, we all agree, is broken," he said. "We need to look into the future and try to see if we can wipe the slate clean ... We know how to alter society at its very core with this healthcare system in terms of education and research. And I believe that the world looks to us for exactly that."

The school has been proposed as partnership between the U of I and Carle Health Systems. 

If approved, the school would be separately accredited from UIC's medical school, which has students in Chicago, Rockford, Peoria and Urbana.