If you think about it, having Gov. Rauner give a commencement address at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale next month makes little sense.

Emily Neal has thought about it.

Neal is an SIUC senior who thinks the honor of being a commencement speaker shouldn’t be bestowed on someone who has proposed massive cuts to the budgets of SIU and other state universities.

“We shouldn’t have to deal with this on our graduation,” she said. “It’s just going to be this huge distraction, and it’s going to take the focus off the students who worked so hard to be here and just shift it to somebody who has negative intentions for our school.”

Neal has started an online petition to “Replace Bruce Rauner as Keynote Speaker for SIU Graduation 2015”. It calls the invitation to speak (which was extended before the governor unveiled his budget slashing plans for higher education) “…a slap in the face to SIU students and faculty who already deal with underfunded programs and facilities.”

Based on the facts, it’s hard to disagree with that argument. Just last month, the man who invited Rauner to speak said the cuts would be very bad news for SIU.

Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn said a proposed $44 million cut to the Carbondale campus and another $20 million cut to the university’s Edwardsville campus would jeopardize some of the school’s “signature majors,” including its flight school and pharmacy program. Dunn said the reductions could also force as many as 1,000 course sections to disappear.

“If we don’t see a mitigation of what has been proposed, this budget will roll back our state support to a level we haven’t seen in 30 years,” Dunn said.

 Since then, Dunn has proposed a 6% tuition increase for incoming students.

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Meanwhile, Governor Rauner continues to encourage local governments to pass a resolution supporting his phony “empowerment zones” scheme.

His resolution endorsing the zones, which would allow governments to designate areas in their communities where union rules needn’t be followed and workers could be paid less, has come before several units of local government in the last few weeks.

Attempts to pass the resolution failed in several communities, but, like Wile E. Coyote, Gov. Rauner will never give up, no matter how bad his ideas are.

He achieved some success Thursday when the McHenry County Board approved the resolution following a 90 minute debate.

And local union members spent Thursday morning taking their case to the County Board. The Woodstock City Council on Tuesday evening tabled a similar support resolution under pressure from a union audience so large that it forced the council to move its meeting to a larger facility.

Local 150 member Dan Schrader called the Turnaround Agenda, specifically right-to-work laws, a “direct assault on the middle class” and a “slap in the face of the American dream.” Others, like Sheet Metal Workers Local 265 member Brian McSherry, warned that County Board members who put union members’ livelihoods up for grabs will do the same for themselves in future elections.

We hear the Mundelein Village Board will discuss the idea on April 13.

Just a reminder, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has already called the “empowerment zone” scheme “illegal.”

(Talking points on “right to work” and “empowerment zones”)

Stay alert – pay attention to what comes before your local units of government, including your school district.

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