Topeka Gov. Joan Finney set the tone for higher education for the 1991 legislative session today by urging legislators to appropriate $978 million for Kansas Board of Regents schools.
In her first State of the State address, Finney made financing for the third year of the university system's Margin of Excellence program a priority recommendation in her fiscal 1992 budget.
The Margin is the regents' initiative to make faculty salaries and educational programs at the state's seven state institutions, including Kansas University, competitive with peer schools.
"We must make this investment because the quality of Kansas' future is undeniably linked to maintaining standards of excellence in our institutions of higher learning," Finney said.
FINNEY'S blueprint calls for a total systemwide budget of $978 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's an increase of $38.8 million over the current fiscal year budget.
According to state budget analysts, Finney's higher education recommendation incorporates a $505 million operating budget for KU and the KU Medical Center, an increase of $21.7 million.
Finney proposed spending $262.9 million, an increase of $12.7 million, to cover operating expenditures and capital improvements at KU's Lawrence campus. The regents had requested $266 million.
For the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., the governor decided to recommend $242.1 million, or a $9 million increase. Regents had asked for $255 million.
Overall, the budget allows for the addition of 17.9 full-time equivalent positions on KU's Lawrence campus. KU sought 35.4 new full-time slots. Finney proposed no staff increases changes at KUMC, which requested 13 positions.
KU Chancellor Gene Budig said Finney's commitment to support the Margin bodes well for the future of the state, which cannot achieve its objectives without a strong university system.
"THE GOVERNOR'S expression of belief in higher education comes at a time of fiscal restraint, which should give special encouragement to members of the academic community," Budig said.
The chancellor said faculty, staff, students and alumni must work with members of the Legislature and the first-term governor to "see that her proposal for the Margin becomes a reality."
Finney's budget plans for higher education recommend:
An adjusted 7 percent pay hike, with an immediate raise of 2.5 percent, 1.5 percent increase delayed for six months and a 3.8 percent raise under the Margin for KU unclassified faculty and staff.
A 2.5 percent increase in the pay scale and 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in the last six months of the year for KU classified workers with longevity bonuses for those who qualify.
A 5 percent hike in credit-hour aid for community colleges, amounting to $2.6 million, and a plan for the state to assume, over a two-year period, all out-district tuition for community colleges.
REP. BETTY JO Charlton, D-Lawrence, said Finney's higher education budget is better than the one offered last year by then-Gov. Mike Hayden, who didn't recommend Margin funding and sought budget cuts.
"It all sounds good until we get to salaries," Charlton said. "The basic 4 percent raise is pretty low since inflation is running around 6 percent. It means you're actually getting a pay cut."
Stanley Koplik, regents executive director, said Finney fell below the requested faculty salary raise of 8 percent but "that is not enough to cry foul and say she's not funding higher education."
He said Finney's proposal for the regents system is "very, very positive," a fact that will open it up to raids by legislators who want to shift funding to programs in other state agencies.
Sen. Wint Winter, R-Lawrence, said Finney's proposals for improving the university system may be rejected by the Legislature, meaning faculty salary and program improvements fall to the budget ax.
"I'm delighted at this stage of the process. My enthusiasm is tempered by reality. She has designed a great house, but there will be a lot of carpenters getting into the act," Winter said.
AS A fallback position, Winter said he plans to co-sponsor a bill that would impose an 8 percent or 9 percent increase in the state cigarette tax to finance the last year of the Margin.
Finney said in a news conference Monday that she plans to make up the difference between her budget recommendations and the state's income by broadening the sales tax base to produce $478 million.
Under the governor's plan, the bolstered general fund would provide $23.8 million in new financing for regents schools, in addition to the 4 percent base raises for unclassified and classified employees.
Gloria Timmer, a state budget analyst, said Finney recommended that $14.7 million of the $23.8 million be earmarked for the Margin and the rest for improvements to the system's operating base.
In regards to capital improvements, Finney proposed spending $1.6 million this fiscal year on general repair and maintenance for KU's Lawrence campus.
Here are Finney's proposed budgets for other regents' institutions, followed by their current budget amounts:
Kansas State, $231.3 million, $220.4 million.
Wichita State, $105 million, $102.6 million.
Emporia State, $40.7 million, $38.6 million.
Pittsburg State, $38.4 million, $37.5 million.
Fort Hays State, $36.9 million, $37.1 million.
KSU Veterinary Medical Center, $14.6 million, $13.7 million.
Kansas College of Technology, $6.3 million, $6 million.
Regents offices, $21 million, $11.5 million.