Warner: no more higher ed cuts
By Matt Kelly and Lee Graves
the General Assembly follows Gov. Mark Warners lead, the
shadow of deeper budget cuts in higher education this year will
his address to the General Assembly on its opening day Jan. 8,
Warner vowed to veto any budget that cuts funding for education.
also asked for a renewed commitment to higher education.
ask you to join me in working together to strengthen our worldwide
reputation for excellence in higher education, Warner told
legislators. Education is the centerpiece of our plans to
grow the economy and open new opportunities for the people of
Virginia, no matter where they live.
December, well before the Assembly convened, Warner announced
budget proposals that spared higher education from another round
of reductions. But that good news was tempered.
governors budget is one in which nothing was given to higher
education and nothing was taken away, said Colette Sheehy,
U.Va.s vice president
for management and budget.
by Peggy Harrison
employees posed questions to President John T. Casteen III
(standing at podium) and state legislators (seated at panel,
left to right) Del. Rob B. Bell III (R-58th district), Sen.
Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) and Del. Mitch VanYahres (D-57th
more than a year, state officials have been grappling with a gap
in revenue that amounts to nearly $6 billion over two years. Repeated
rounds of reductions have led to layoffs at some agencies.
toll on U.Va. over the two-year budget is $91.5 million in reduced
state support, with $51.6 million of that projected in 2003-04.
By the end of the biennium, it is projected that the percentage
of state funds that support the academic division will have shrunk
percent of total revenue. Five years ago, in 1997-98, state support
accounted for more than 23 percent of academic division revenues.
revenue was the rallying cry at a forum held with area legislators
in Newcomb Hall on Jan. 3.
people called for increased taxes, including reinstating the car
tax, hiking the fees on vanity license plates and raising the
income tax. Others cautioned that continued cuts would hurt the
University. John Knapp, professor of business and economics and
research director at the Weldon
Cooper Center for Public Service, said the average U.Va. faculty
salary ranked in the 48th percentile when compared with peer institutions
in 1999-2000, had fallen to the 35th percentile in 2002 and was
projected to drop to the 24th percentile by 2004.
think our institutions of higher learning are the crown jewels
of the Commonwealth, so we should be careful what we do with them,
Mitch Van Yahres, D-57th, acknowledged that the budget is
a mess, and we are going to make cuts to programs that should
not be cut.
he warned that any tax hikes would be rejected by the legislators
in an election year.
Yahres has proposed a complete return of the car tax, a 5 percent
surcharge on corporate and personal income and a phased reduction
of the senior citizens deduction for incomes over $50,000.
If the state does not meet its obligations, the localities will
have to pick them up, which could mean increased property taxes,
Van Yahres said. He added that he is not optimistic that any of
his tax proposals will pass.
also described tuition hikes as tax increases on students and
Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said Virginia is experiencing
a 3.8 percent revenue decline at the same time its looking
at $500 million in mandated spending increases. And he cautioned
that since theres no money in the budget for programs, legislators
will spend most of the session grandstanding on other issues.
Rob B. Bell III, R-58th district, a U.Va. alumnus representing
Thomas Jeffersons old district, joked that he is regarded
as the representative from U.Va. He said there is hostility toward
the University in the legislature.
Assembly meets for 46 days this year, and during that time U.Va.
officials will seek amendments to its capital plans. Given the
states financial condition, the University has chosen not
to request any additional tax support for operating or capital
needs. Requests include lifting constraints on increases in some
mandatory student fees and authorizing supplements to several
capital projects, including MR-6, the Commerce School and hospital
hope the General Assembly will support the governor and exclude
higher education from further reductions, Sheehy said.