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Archive for Wednesday, March 4, 1992

HOUSE PANEL OKS KU BUDGET INCREASE

March 4, 1992

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— A House committee Tuesday endorsed a bill that raises spending at Kansas University nearly 3 percent and provides money to plan the reconstruction of Hoch Auditorium.

The House Appropriations Committee defeated a proposal to increase tuition by $23 million this fall at KU and other Board of Regents universities before sending the bill to the House. It has yet to be considered by the Senate.

KU Chancellor Gene Budig said today that the university had fared well so far this session.

"One has to be encouraged by yesterday's action," he said. "There is much work ahead."

In fiscal year 1993, which begins July 1, the bill would provide:

A 2.5 percent raise for student workers and faculty and unclassified staff, and a 4 percent increase in operating expense budgets at the six state universities.

$1.04 billion for the regents system, a 3.6 percent increase. That includes $264.5 million for KU, a 2.9 percent increase; and $258.2 million to the KU Medical Center, a 3.8 percent increase.

Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, a member of the appropriations committee, said he would prefer the Legislature raise salaries by more than 2.5 percent. Regents requested a 5 percent raise.

"I wish we could do more. I'm not sure we can. But the session isn't over yet," Solbach said.

The committee's bill closely followed Gov. Joan Finney's budget recommendations, but increased spending about $2.2 million above her proposal.

"I DON'T think it's generous," Rep. George Teagarden, D-LaCygne, the committee's chairman, said of the bill. "I think it's adequate in today's times."

Budig said he was relieved the bill contained $1 million for Hoch, which burned in June after it was struck by lightning. It wasn't insured against fire.

"The need for Hoch is now well accepted by most legislators," he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said he would ask the Senate Ways and Means Committee today to introduce a bill that would provide for the replacement of state buildings destroyed in natural disasters.

WINTER SAID the bill would be drafted in such a way that the state could issue bonds immediately to finance construction work at Hoch. Debt on the bonds would be repaid with revenue from an existing statewide property tax.

The project might be delayed for years if the Legislature doesn't find a way to finance Hoch this legislative session, Winter said.

"It might get pushed back into the background," he said. "If that happened it would be a symbol of the decay of higher education financing."

The House committee rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Kerry Patrick, R-Leawood, that would have raised tuition at state universities to an amount equal to the average of each university's selected "peers."

Under Patrick's amendment, tuition at KU would have increased 26 percent. The $23 million raised by the tuition hike was to be applied to faculty salaries, giving them a 9.4 percent raise next fiscal year, Patrick said.

"WE'RE HEARD for years that all the regents institutions want to be is treated like their peers," he said. "There is room for growth in tuition increases."

Solbach said the tuition proposal was bad public policy. If tuition were to increase to the level of peers, state funding for regents' schools also should increase to the level of peers, he said. The university system is funded at 84 percent of peers.

"You're going to need more than $23 million to reach the funding level of peers," he said.

Solbach offered to make a substitute motion that would abolish the Board of Regents and appoint Patrick to run the state universities. Solbach and Patrick then exchanged words, with Patrick calling Solbach the education expert.

"Listen, committee," Chairman Teagarden said, "we're not going to get into these games."

FOR OTHER universities, the bill would appropriate:

$169.3 million to KSU, a 1.9 percent increase.

$103.4 million to Wichita State, a 2.1 percent decrease.

$42.3 million to Emporia State, a 1.8 percent increase.

$39.8 million to Pittsburg State, a 2.8 percent increase.

$38.1 million to Fort Hays State, a 1.6 percent increase.

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