During the current legislative session, there has been much dispute about the appropriate amount of funding the University should receive. Although any eventual funding the University usually receives is the result of compromise between the state House, Senate and governor, this year’s funding proposals are quite distinct from one another, as well as from the University’s original request. Of course, any organization would prefer to receive the full amount of their original request, though most assume it will be reduced by the Legislature. The Senate’s proposal — the highest of the three — is most appropriate when this assumption is considered. The amounts proposed by Ventura and the House, however, are far too low, especially during this important period of transition for the University.
The University originally requested $134.3 million from the state, most of which is to be used for building projects. However, Gov. Ventura proposed allocating $54 million for this request near the beginning of the legislative session. Last week, the House proposed $47.4 million, an equally inappropriate amount that is actually less than Ventura’s proposal. The Senate’s recommendation — originally considered far too low by University administration — is $99.2 million.
The University’s request — or even the Senate’s — is entirely reasonable considering the University’s current state of transition from a top public university to a top national university. The several recent facility improvements should dramatically increase its national ranking among other research institutions, as well as its attractiveness to potential faculty applicants. The inexorable increase in freshman applications has significantly improved the academic profile of incoming students and the selectivity of the school. Although the difference between the three proposals is not a significant amount of money, without being granted a reasonable portion of the original request, the University might have to defer achievements that could otherwise be accomplished.
The low proposals of the House and Gov. Ventura are especially inappropriate in the context of the current prosperity of the state, as well as the nation. In addition to deliberating about the University’s request, the Legislature is also debating the uses of the $1.3 billion state budget surplus. With the absence of any populist demands that the surplus be returned in the form of tax rebates, as well as any single, dominant priority, allocating an amount closer to, or even exceeding, the Senate’s proposal would certainly be a judicious investment for the entire state.
Although the final amount will not be agreed upon until April, it is likely to be a compromise between the Republican House, the Democratic Senate and the Independent governor. Until then, state representatives and Gov. Ventura should seriously reconsider their proposals. They should each understand the importance of the University’s request and how unreasonable these proposals are.