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Illinois Universities Advised To Create Bailout Wish Lists

This story was written by Chris Davies, The Daily Vidette

With the economy officially in recession, many companies and organizations are seeking bailouts from the federal government. The state of Illinois is no exception. Should the government fill that request, some of that money may be directed toward universities within the state.

A few weeks ago the Illinois Board of Higher Education contacted state universities and asked them to compile a 'wish list' of building projects that could be funded by the government to help stimulate the economy.

Vice President of Finance and Planning Steve Bragg explained how this could be done at ISU.

"The Board of Higher Education asked for projects that could be completed within a year and the only project that fit that requirement on our campus is the south campus power plant," he said. "The first stage of that project would be to provide a chiller for the new Student Fitness and Kinesiology and Recreation Building."

"Over time we would add more to it and eventually it would replace the current power plant behind Schroeder Hall."

Currently legislators are debating on how to distribute bailout money, whether to send it to the states or to bailout the struggling auto industry. Stock prices for the major U.S. automakers have fallen to 25-year lows in recent months, prompting heads of the industry to go to Washington to urge Congress to consider a bailout for their companies.

Neil Skaggs, professor of economics, believes that to give money to the auto industry would be a serious waste of taxpayers' dollars.

"Congress is trying to stimulate the economy because of the fear that we could be headed toward another depression," he said. "The best thing for automakers is to declare bankruptcy, get rid of their current contracts, downscale their operations and begin to rebuild.

"For Congress to give them money is to throw it out. It would be wasted."

The state of Illinois is facing similar hardships with $4 billion in unpaid bills accumulating. Governor Blagojevich has sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to help out the struggling state economy. Skaggs believes that this would be more beneficial than providing for automakers.

"State services have been stretched greatly due to lack of tax revenue and they would certainly benefit from this money. Giving the money to the states would be a much better option than providing it to any auto industry," he said.

Whether or not ISU receives any money remains to be seen, but Bragg does not expect to know soon.

"It is uncertain whether we will even receive the money. It would be wonderful to have that assistance, but the university's plans are not predicated on it."

The Illinois Board of Higher Education recently notified Illinois State of a 2.5 percent reserve on operating funds for the 2009 Fiscal Year. The move will trim back about $2.1 million from the University's operating budget.

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