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Officials not worried about state budget impasse or funding

Temple officials are not concerned with the state’s budget impasse.

Pennsylvania is one of only two states to have not passed a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a budget bill passed by the Republican-led General Assembly in June. Republican legislators pushed to override Wolf’s veto without success.

Temple, a state-related university, receives about 10 percent of its funding from the state, but Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Ken Kaiser said the administration is not concerned about the budget impasse in Harrisburg.

“When they’re delayed in providing us the funding, it’s such a small piece that we can weather that storm from a liquidity perspective,” Kaiser told The Temple News.

“It’s not a cash issue,” he added. “We’re not in any trouble, and we’ll be fine.”

Joseph P. McLaughlin, a political science professor who is in charge of Temple’s Institute for Public Affairs, explained that the state-related universities, like Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple, are placed behind state-owned schools like Bloomsburg and West Chester universities, in the pecking order.

“The non-preferred appropriations [under which Temple’s funding falls] are last in line,” he said. “So we always have a tougher hurdle than state-owned institutions.”

Jaison Kurichi, associate vice president for the university’s budget office, developed Temple’s $1.3 billion operating budget without knowing how much the university would receive from the Commonwealth.

“It [the state appropriation] makes up a smaller piece of the budget every year,” Kurichi said. “They pretty much flat fund us each year.”

“There’s been a long history here of the state support being diminished,” McLaughlin, who worked as a senior advisor to Gov. Ed Rendell, said.

Wolf’s predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett, slashed Temple’s cut of state money by 19 percent for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The funding has remained level since then.    

Wolf, who took office in January, has promised increased funding for state-related universities like Temple. Wolf’s budget proposal, in its original form, would have increased Temple’s funding by $15.44 million. However, Kaiser and Kurichi said they planned for an increase of $7.5 million in Temple’s budget, given the divided government in Harrisburg.

“We’re not expecting to get what he included in his initial budget in March,” Kaiser said. “That would be unrealistic.”

Kaiser said the university, under the direction of President Theobald, has focused on decreasing student debt through not implementing large tuition hikes and through initiatives like the “Fly in 4” program, which aims to help students graduate on time.

“Clearly when you compare Temple’s tuition to the privates in this area, there’s no comparison,” he said. “We ask ourselves all the time, ‘Why in the world would a student pay the price to go to La Salle when they could come to Temple–even Drexel, Villanova, and Saint Joe’s.’ It doesn’t make sense to us, at least.”

Though Kaiser is not worried about when the state appropriation is allocated—which will happen when a finalized budget is passed—he admits the university will be glad once the money arrives.

“The good news is when they do finally pass the budget, they’ll send us a big fat check,” Kaiser said.

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jack.tomczuk@temple.edu or on Twitter @JackTomczuk.

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