Friday, February 21, 2014

UK, UofL presidents protest proposed budget cuts

Lawmaker says the should push tax reform

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This from the Herald-Leader:
The presidents of the state's two largest universities appeared before lawmakers to plead against proposed 2.5 percent budget cuts that they said could irrevocably harm higher education's progress. Both said tuition would rise, and University of Louisville President James Ramsey even mentioned possible layoffs.

Eli Capilouto
But the chairman of the budget subcommittee on postsecondary education, Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, said he thinks the cuts will remain because of the state's dire budget situation.
Instead, he said during and after the meeting, he wished college presidents such as Ramsey and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto would push harder for a proposal to generate more state revenue by overhauling Kentucky's tax system.

"Do I think it would be helpful if they would advocate more forcefully for tax reform? The answer is yes," Simpson said after the meeting. "We need public declarations; they could have declared it today."

All of the state's universities have huge alumni bases, wealthy and influential trustees, and avid sports fans, all of whom have their university's best interests at heart, Simpson said.

University presidents must be sensitive to the wishes of both political parties, Simpson said, but they have a duty to push tax reform.

"It's part of their job. ... This is where the rubber hits the road," he said.

After the meeting, Capilouto said he has the ear of Big Blue Nation, as UK's ardent fan base is known, but "I look to those who are elected to make the decision."

"I don't speak for BBN when it comes to proposals for more funding," Capilouto said.

Ramsey, a longtime state budget director before he went to U of L, has written editorials and spoken publicly in favor of tax modernization.

Gov. Steve Beshear has presented a tax overhaul plan that is projected to increase state revenue by $210 million a year if fully implemented. However, the plan has received little support from lawmakers in a year when all 100 House members and half of the Senate is up for re-election.

One Republican leader said Thursday that the reticence of university presidents to push for tax reform is wise.

"They have to decide what they feel is best for them, but they are a state agency so I would recommend some caution in their approach," said Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. "I certainly don't want them to take the Terry Holliday approach."

Holliday, the state education commission, has rustled up plenty of support across the state in favor of increased funding for K-12 education, and has spoken forcefully for both tax reform and expanded gaming as a way to pay for it.

Thayer said the Senate wants to work with university presidents in a collaborative fashion.
"I think they're cognizant of the budget difficulties we face, just as we're cognizant of the budget difficulties they face," he said.

Capilouto and Ramsey presented lawmakers with many facts and figures about their schools' progress, including better graduation rates, increased research funding and expanded infrastructure across their two campuses. But further budget cuts will hinder the schools in their competitive race for better students and star faculty, they said.

"You're going to see a quiet erosion, and what you need is talent and infrastructure," Capilouto told the committee.

He presented a slide that showed every surrounding state except West Virginia was starting to increase funding for higher ed, putting Kentucky at an even greater disadvantage.

UK has lost more than $50 million in state funding in recent years. The cut included in Beshear's proposed budget is about $7 million.

Simpson said he's sympathetic to higher education's plight, and agrees that the proposed cuts could damage one of the state's most important services.

"New revenue is warranted," he said, and "they could have said that."

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Anonymous said...

Kind of sad when legislators are blaming university presidents for not telling the legislators to do their job and what is best for the state as whole in terms of tax reform. Ironic that legislator wants to imply that university presidents aren't specifically requesting tax reform in order to avoid conflict with alumni when legislators won't do it either for fear of offending their own party doners.

Anonymous said...

UK and UL sports scholarships, multimillion dollar coaches, state of the art equipment and facilities, playing on ESPN as universities collect piles of money from alumni and donors

KY county athletics, carwashes, extra duty for teachers, front page of KY county bi weekly sports section.

Pretty much the same deal with academics. I understand scale issues don't make this a fair comparison but part of the problem is university oversight and leadership. Legislators raid post secondary budgets and as well as public schools, and then they even take HS kids with greatest financial need and rob them of state scholarship funding. Welcome to the new normal - state legislators with less money, less public support and who care less it seems other than trying to get reelected next time.