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Budget committee adds millions in spending for colleges and universities

Budget committee adds millions in spending for colleges and universities

Dustin Hurst
February 28, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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February 28, 2012

After two years of funding cuts, Idaho’s community colleges and universities will likely see more money next year.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) approved higher education budgets Tuesday, pledging nearly $50 million more for universities and a $4.7 million increase for community colleges.

The state’s universities asked for $480 million for fiscal year 2013, but that amount wasn’t supported by Gov. Butch Otter or the budget committee. The JFAC budget actually goes beyond Otter’s spending recommendation, allotting $1 million more in state funds than the amount set forth by the governor.

Overall, the JFAC-approved 2013 university budget is $446.3 million, which includes $227.9 million in state funds. The total funding increase in the spending plan is $49.6 million, or 12.5 percent.

For 2012, lawmakers appropriated $209 million in state funds for universities and a total budget of $396.7 million. That figure represented a $7.6 million state funding reduction from 2011.

The 2013 appropriation includes increases for building occupancy costs, as well as $2 million in funding for research, part of Otter’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission initiative.

Universities could have seen a bigger increase in funding had Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, had her way in the committee Tuesday. Ringo motioned to provide $229 million in state funds for the schools, or a $1.1 million increase over the final appropriation.

The extra money, Ringo explained, would help schools cover a greater share of the building occupancy costs, an area in which she said universities are still hurting. “When we do not give the universities the funding for occupying these buildings, they have to find it somewhere,” Ringo said.

Ringo’s move was killed on a 5-12 vote, with Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise, joining four committee Democrats in supporting the move.

Community colleges could also see more funding next year thanks to JFAC’s work Tuesday. The committee approved spending $4.7 million more on this expense in 2013, which represents a 20 percent increase from this year.

It’s not as much as community colleges requested, however. Their request was for a total of $32.6 million.
Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, moved to give the $4.7 million hike as part of a $27.7 million budget in hopes it will ease the burdens on students. “I hope this lessens the need for tuition and fees increases,” Brackett said.

The two budgets now head to the House floor for consideration.

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