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Legislative update - Funding restoration supported

By Ralph Byers, director of governmental relations

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 19 - February 9, 1995

The House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees reported their recommendations on the state budget for 1995-96 on Sunday, Feb. 5. Each committee recommended restoring approximately $50 million to higher education that had been cut by Gov. George Allen. While all reductions were not restored and there were differences between the two committees, overall Virginia Tech fared well in both chambers.

By far the largest item in higher education was the proposed $12.2-million cut in Cooperative Extension and Research. The House recommended full restoration of this cut, while the Senate recommended $10.3 million--$5.3 million for Extension and $4.9 million for Research. Both restored funding for the interdisciplinary seafood-research program. However, the $2-million shortfall already in the budget for Extension and Research for the second year of the biennium was not addressed by either committee (see accompanying table).

Both committees recommended restoring $1.1 million to fund faculty salary increases of 2.25 percent; the governor had recommended that institutions fund these from their own budgets. The committees differed on how to fund classified increases of 2.25 percent, which amounts to $264,776 for the Instructional Division and $189,513 for the Cooperative Extension/Research Division. The House wants institutions to fund these increases from their budgets, while the Senate provided the funding.

Funding for some centers was restored, again with differences between the House and Senate. The Senate recommended $400,000 for the Equine Medical Center, $600,000 for the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement, and $200,000 for the Commonwealth Center for Applied Mathematics. The House, on the other hand, recommended $500,000 for the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement, but no funding for the Equine Medical Center or the Center for Applied Mathematics. The university had requested $1.5 million for instructional-technology initiatives; the House recommended $204,078, but the Senate made no recommendation in this area.

The Council of Higher Education and Business--Higher Education Council had recommended restoration of $14.7 million in General Fund reductions for higher education for the second year of the biennium.

The accompanying table summarizes the university's request and the recommendations of the two committees. Capital-outlay recommendations are all from non-General Fund sources.

The full House and Senate must act on these recommendations by midnight tonight, February 9. A conference committee will then be appointed to iron out differences between the two versions, and the conference committee must report by Tuesday, Feb. 21. The General Assembly will adjourn on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Once the General Assembly adjourns, the governor must take up and sign the budget bill. With the power of line-item veto, Allen can sign the bill or veto certain parts that he finds objectionable. If he vetoes portions of the bill, the General Assembly will reconvene the first week of April to either adopt or override Allen's veto.