Texas Senate to make budget cuts

The State Senate is preparing the state budget for Monday, minus an estimated $9.1 billion in lost revenue as a result of the economic downturn.

The two-year budget, outlined in the Senate appropriations bill, contains the core of funding for UH, Grover Campbell, vice president for Governmental Relations said.

The economic slump means a reduction in state funding Campbell said. Exactly which programs will incur funding cuts will not be known until the appropriations bill passes final vote. Campbell said he expects that will happen before the end of the regular session on June 1.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides UH some relief in the face of a flagging economy, Campbell said.

‘The Congress has provided the federal stimulus funding, and that is filling a lot of holes,’ he said.

Campbell works with government officials at local, state and federal levels to represent UH to legislators in Austin and Washington D.C.

‘(My job is) explaining the University to the Legislature and explaining the Legislature to the University,’ Campbell said.’ ‘What we do is provide information to the members of the legislation so they understand the impact, and we are aggressively informing them.’

While the University waits to see if the school’s core funding will be reduced, there is a separate initiative in the state Legislature to create more flagship universities through the Research Development Fund (RDF), Competitive Knowledge Fund (CKF) and the creation of the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).

‘The two major concepts out there are not mutually exclusive,’ Campbell said. ‘One is dealing with the short term and one is dealing with a more long-term focus, the discussion in the Senate is how to merge the two ideas.’

UH receives close to $7.5 million through the RDF and $4 million from the CKF annually for research projects. TRIP would allow the state to match large private donations to emerging research institutions.

Campbell said that the establishment of the RDF was an important step in the process to achieve flagship status.

‘There is not one single action the Legislature can do to move UH to flagship status, it has to set up a pathway,’ Campbell said. ‘Over the past years the Legislature has put several pieces in place for this pathway.’

More of the pieces could fall into place this year, with over a dozen bills relating to creating more flagship universities, tuition rates and top 10 percent rule, the three biggest education issues for this session, Campbell said.

‘All the bills are important,’ Campbell said. ‘Flagship status has been a number one priority for the UH campus for over a decade.’

Also taking a part in UH’s quest for flagship status is the Greater Houston Partnership, an advocacy group for local business and public policy, which has sent representatives to Austin to lobby on UH’s behalf.

‘They see Tier I for UH as a major economic driver for the region through research, bringing new businesses to the area and providiwng an educated workforce,’ Campbell said.

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