Quinn says universities could be target for cuts

SPRINGFIELD — Just days after warning that the state’s retirement costs might take money from local schools in the future, Gov. Pat Quinn said that state university budgets could be cut back further if lawmakers don’t agree on how to reduce the state’s $83 billion pension debt.

Quinn’s statements come as a coalition of teacher and state employee unions is preparing to release a pensions cost-savings plan later today.

Quinn said as the state’s costs for state employee, teacher and university worker pensions continue to rise, less money would be available for state universities. Less state money often means tuition hikes.

“A strong higher education system drives economic development and is essential to moving Illinois forward,” Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn has sent a similar warning about local schools in recent days, saying the amount the state spends on employee retirements would surpass how much it spends on schools by 2016.

But, as with universities, it’s impossible to know how much the state will spend on schools from year to year as lawmakers and the governor have to negotiate and craft a budget from scratch every year.

Lawmakers are set to meet in Springfield Friday to talk about pensions, but it’s unclear what — if anything — they’ll agree on.

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