January 24, 2006

Symposium focuses on funding vital services

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Illinois' ability to meet critical vital service needs given the state's structural budget deficit is the focus of an upcoming conference at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The symposium, "Real Needs & Red Ink: How Do We Fund Vital Services in Illinois," is set for 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3, in the SIUC Student Center Ballroom B. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability are sponsoring the symposium.

The event is free and the public is welcome.

Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and a columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, will deliver the keynote address.

There will be two panels – one examining spending pressures and one that looks at existing fiscal and social issues. Charlie Wheeler, director of the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, is moderator.

"Our state leaders need to deal squarely with some pressing needs in Illinois and a sizeable deficit," institute Director Mike Lawrence said. "We must provide quality education throughout the state. We must support initiatives that make a positive difference for disadvantaged children in their earliest years. We must provide essential services to the truly needy. And we must find the ways and means to meet these substantial challenges without continuing to saddle our children and grandchildren with the debt that builds when state government spends beyond its means and borrows from the future."

The 9 a.m. panel discussion will look at spending pressures. The panelists are:

  • Randy J. Dunn, Illinois state superintendent of schools, and a professor in SIUC's Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education.
  • Linda Renee Baker, former secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, and a University professor at the institute.
  • Matt Powers, former administrator of the state's Medicaid program.
  • Dan Schwick, government relations manager, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.
  • Nancy Shier, director of Kids PEPP (Public Education and Policy Project) for the Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund.

The 11 a.m. panel discussion looks at revenue and fiscal issues. The panelists are:

  • Dan Long, executive director, Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
  • Tom Johnson, partner in charge of KPMG's Chicago State and Local Tax Practice, and former director of the Illinois Department of Revenue.
  • Jeff Mays, president, Illinois Business Roundtable.
  • Matthew Gardner, state tax policy director, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
  • Judy Erwin, executive director, Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Martire, executive director of the bi-partisan policy think tank, is a frequent lecturer on fiscal policy, and served on the budget advisory board to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's transition team. He was the principal author of a study that looked at the state's 2002 fiscal crisis – and five of the study's proposals eventually became law.

Pursuing leadership opportunities to address social, health and economic development issues of importance to our region is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information, contact the institute at 618/453-4009 or visit http://www.siu.edu/%7eppi/home.htm

Symposium focuses on funding vital services

Ralph Martire
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