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Budget Update - Legislature restores $14 million

By Ralph Byers, director of government relations

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 22 - March 2, 1995

On Friday, Feb. 24, the House of Delegates and Senate voted 82-17 and 40-0, respectively, to adopt a budget for 1995-96. The General Assembly's budget differs considerably from that proposed by Governor Allen in December. The final version of the budget, which was worked out between House and Senate conferees, restores about $50 million to higher education, more than $14 million of which will be directed to Virginia Tech.

The major item for Virginia Tech was funding for Cooperative Extension and Research. The budget restores $12.1 million of the $12.3 million eliminated by the governor, as well as $145,700 for seafood research. The $12.1 million fully restores the $4.9-million cut from agriculture and forestry research and all but about $200,000 of the recommended reduction in Cooperative Extension.

Other budget restorations and additions include $1.1 million for a 2.25 percent faculty salary increase on December 1 (the governor recommended that these be funded from the institutions' budgets); $400,000 for the Equine Medical Center; $550,000 for the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement; $200,000 for instructional technology; $300,000 to partially restore a General Fund shortfall in the second year of the biennium; $50,000 for minority agriculture scholarships; and $25,000 for the Reynolds Homestead. In addition, the Corps of Cadets will receive approximately $1,900 per cadet as a unique military appropriation.

Some reductions in funding were included as well. For example, a 2.25-percent classified salary increase will be funded from within the university's existing budget. This amounts to $264,776 for the Instructional Division and $189,513 for Cooperative Extension and Research. In addition, there is a $507,200 General Fund reduction in the Instructional Division relating to indirect cost reimbursement that is under discussion with legislative staff and the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV).

Along with the restoration of funds for extension and research is language requesting Virginia Tech to review the operations of Extension, with special attention to incorporating information technology and to generating non-general fund revenues. The language also directs that Extension "give highest priority to programs and services which comprised the original mission of the Extension Service, especially agricultural programs at the local level."

In statewide issues, the General Assembly restored most funding to SCHEV in spite of the governor's recommendation to cut its budget by one-third. A bill to remove SCHEV's powers to recommend budgets and capital outlay priorities was killed earlier by the Senate Committee on Education and Health. Funding also was restored to the Eminent Scholars program and the maintenance reserve fund.

A number of studies have been enacted for the coming year, most notably a study of the funding of institutions of higher education in Virginia. Originally proposed as a study of funding for doctoral institutions only, the study was broadened to cover all public colleges and universities. This study is timely, for the issue of Virginia's level of support for higher education in comparison with other states is a matter of great concern.

The governor now has 30 days to review, recommend changes, or veto bills adopted by the General Assembly, including the budget. If the governor proposes an amendment to a bill, it can be approved by majorities of the House and Senate. A veto, on the other hand, can only be overridden by two-thirds of both houses. Over the past weeks there has been much speculation about the technicalities of vetoing items in the budget. However, the governor has indicated that although he will propose amendments to budget items he does not agree with, he will not exercise his veto power if the General Assembly does not accept his changes.

The General Assembly will convene on April 5 in what is known as the veto session to consider the governor's recommendations on legislation and the budget.

The accompanying table details the status of proposed amendments to the budget.

For more information on the results of the General Assembly session, please contact the Office of Government Relations, 221 Burruss Hall.