Budget Update – March 3, 2017

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Higher Education Appropriations

This week, the House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations began its initial markup of the state budget proposed by the Governor. Several changes were made that have an impact on community colleges and higher education.

First, cuts to all higher education institutions were equalized at 9.053% below last year’s appropriation.  As initially presented, the Governor’s budget recommendation applied a 10% cut to general revenue funding for all of higher education, but the total percentage cut was different for each institution once all revenue streams were included.

Without the changes made this week, the percentage cut from every community college was greater than the percentage cut at each university.  The Appropriations Committee decision equalized the reduction for all institutions and had a net effect of adding $448,611 to community colleges.

Second, several universities received an additional $6.9 million increase for a variety of special collaborative projects.  These funds were taken from the K-12 budget and moved to five universities.  Most public 4-year universities did not receive any additional funding.

We appreciate the efforts by the legislature to equalize the percentage cuts to community colleges, but unfortunately, that parity has been thrown off balance again by the additional increase for these university special projects.

For example, the Governor’s recommendation reduced community college funding by $14.7 million dollars. This $6.9 million increase for university special projects accounts for almost half of the community college reduction.  We do not oppose any of these projects for the universities, but we do believe that treating all higher education institutions fairly and equitably should be a basic principle of our policymaking process.

More importantly, we know that the skills and attainment gaps for our students as well as employers’ workforce demands require a systemic, broad-based approach to higher education and workforce development.  This can only be addressed by support for all higher education institutions, not just a handful of narrowly-focused programs.

Economic Development Appropriations

The Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee also conducted its budget markup this week.  The workforce development training programs that impact community colleges were not changed from the Governor’s recommendations, which reduced their funding by $1 million.

We now await further action in the full Budget Committee, which is expected to convene after other appropriations committees finish their markup.