Pennsylvania lawmakers slashed nearly all University funding from the state budget passed this summer, prompting stunned University officials to lobby even harder for state support. The funding cuts amount to a $37 million decrease in aid from last year's appropriation, and could have devastating effects on schools and programs throughout the University. University officials said they were shocked by the cuts. "It is unfortunate that the governor and the House Democrats don't recognize the return on investment they make, and have been making, for almost 90 years," Budget Director Stephen Golding said. "Ultimately, there will be a lot of people who will be hurt economically because of the failure to support Penn." There is still a chance the University could receive some state funding. Lawmakers, now adjourned for the summer, could pass nonpreferred appropriation bills when they return later this month. "Between now and then, believe me, we will be doing a lot of discussing to see if there is still hope," University lobbyist James Shada said in July. The only funding the University received in this year's budget was an appropriation of about $490,000 for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania's Cancer Center. Gov. Robert Casey signed the 1992-93 budget on the eve of the July 1 deadline mandated by state law. In February, he had proposed the complete cut in funding for the University and other state-aided institutions. Administrators said they designed the University's 1993 budget to help cushion the cuts and protect academics. The University has begun to cut 600 faculty and staff positions and has postponed most building projects, as outlined in plans announced by President Sheldon Hackney in March. The University will also run a $19.5 million deficit. The deficit is designed to absorb a $16.5 million dollar loss in Veterinary School funding -- accounting for over 40 percent of the school's budget -- and $3 million dollars that in the past had been directed to financial aid. At the same time, student tuition and fees will rise 5.9 percent -- the lowest percentage increase since 1974 -- and faculty will, on average, receive a 4.4 percent wage increase. To avoid missing the budget deadline, the state House of Representatives passed a tenatively-approved Senate version of the budget for the governor to sign. The House did not vote on several "nonpreferred" appropriation bills that normally accompany the general fund budget. Funding for the University and other private schools is contained in these bills, and the failure to pass them amounted to a $76 million reduction in state higher education subsidies. The House did forward nonpreferred bills for the state-related schools -- the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University and Lincoln University -- and for some state museum appropriations. Funding for state-related universities was cut by 3.5 percent. According to the state constitution, all state spending must stop if a budget bill is not passed by the fiscal year deadline each year. When the state legislature missed the deadline by 34 days last year, the Capitol was besieged by angry state workers and welfare recipients whose checks were delayed, and other protesters who threatened to vote the lawmakers out of office. By passing a budget, the Democratic-controlled House avoided a repeat of last year's protests. However, the move also bypassed traditional negotiations between a handful of House and Senate leaders, who negotiate in private to design a budget agreeable to both sides. These lawmakers later said they had expected to partially grant the University's funding requests. Some legislators in the Republican-controlled Senate also complained that the budget bill passed by the House was intended only as a starting point private negotiations when it was passed by the Senate earlier in June. With the $14 billion budget on his desk, Casey exercised his line-item veto power to block one University appropriation included in the general fund budget -- $386,000 directed toward the University Arboretum. Under the University's 1993 budget plan, most building projects will be halted. However, construction of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technolgy, the Biomedical Research Building and the Law School Library, renovations of College Hall and Logan Hall, and design of the Revlon Student Center will continue as scheduled. 'Between now and then, believe me, we will be doing a lot of discussing to see if there is still hope.' James Shada University LobbyistComments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.