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HARRISBURG -- Governor Robert Casey signed into law Monday a bill which provides the University with another year of state funding at the last fiscal year's levels. Since there is no funding cut in the new budget, the bill drastically reduces the need for last spring's contingency plan developed in response to Governor Casey's proposed $18.6 million reduction in the University's appropriation last February. The bill virtually eliminates the need for a $6 million dollar deficit approved by the trustees this spring, and reduces the pressure to cut 300 faculty and staff positions or halt campus building projects. In the short term, it should also relieve some of the strain on financial aid programs. "These funds help insure our ability to support need-blind admissions for hundreds of Pennsylvanian students, making sure that every admitted student with financial need receives the necessary scholarship aid to enroll," President Sheldon Hackney said in a statement Tuesday. However, the appropriations -- which lack any increase to compensate for inflation -- are unlikely to reverse this year's 6.7 percent tuition increase, which broke a five-year trend of annually decreasing the rate of tuition increase. Passage of the $37.6 million spending bill was one of several nonpreferred appropriations measures approved by the governor as part of a $13.9 billion general fund spending plan for the 1991-92 fiscal year. Along with a proposal calling for $2.9 billion in new taxes -- the largest increase in Commonwealth history -- the legislation brought an end to the 34-day state budget deadlock. The University's proposal, House Bill 1555, passed in a unanimous 50-0 vote during Saturday's Senate session, an all-night marathon that stretched into Sunday afternoon. Last Thursday, the bill passed in the state House of Representatives on a 192-3 vote, with 3 abstentions. Those representatives opposing the University's appropriations bill were Gaynor Cawley (D-Lackawanna Co.), James Gallen (R-Berks) and Kenneth Kruszewski (D-Erie). Several administrators said this week they were extremely pleased by the University's funding success in what many called the worst state budget process in eighteen years. They added that the support the University received from trustees, alumni, parents and students while lobbying for funding was also extremely gratifying. "That was a wonderful part of this torturous process -- to have people come out and support Penn as they never did before," John Gould, executive director of the President's office, said Tuesday. James Shada, assistant vice president of Commonwealth relations, also credited the University's friends in Pennsylvania for hundreds of letters and dozens of personal visits to state lawmakers. "They really went out and did what we asked them to do," Shada said. "That's the most important kind of support we can get." Shada and his associate Paul Cribbins, director of city and Commonwealth relations, can now take a break from their summer vigil in Harrisburg -- but they must also complete the University's funding request for next year, due in September, and write "thank-you letters by the score." "It means we return to our families and we return to a normal style," Shada said. "Which is certainly welcomed by our families and ourselves as individuals."

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