Corbett proposes flat funding

Speaking to a combined session of the state legislature on the floor of the House of Representatives in Harrisburg last Tuesday, Gov. Corbett proposed to level Temple’s funding as part of a $29.4 billion budget that, if passed, would be the fourth consecutive year that the university’s commonwealth appropriation would be set at $139.9 million.

In an open request to the commonwealth, the university asked for $144.1 million in funding, a 3 percent increase to account for expected inflation.

In November’s general elections, the governor will be on the ballot. One of the largest issues facing Corbett’s re-election include the criticisms over the deep cuts in education funding, which included Temple and the School District of Philadelphia.

The governor included a $368 million increase in public education funds as part of the $1 billion proposed increase in overall spending for his 2014-15 budget.

With Corbett’s budget not set in stone, there is still room for Temple to receive the desired 3 percent raise. Ken Lawrence, senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, said the appropriations level still has far to go before being final.

“We heard some remarks from some legislators,” Lawrence said, “In particular, Senator Jake Corman [R-Centre County], who’s the chair of the senate appropriations committee…talking about wanting to see some more support for higher education.”

In a phone interview, President Theobald said without commonwealth appropriations, tuition rates for in-state students, who make up for more than 70 percent of the university’s student body, may be affected since tuition and appropriations are two of the university’s main sources of revenue.

“We want to do absolutely everything possible to hold down tuition and fees and a major partner in doing that is the Commonwealth…the two are interactive,” Theobald said. “They provide level funding, we need to find cost-containment and that puts a lot of pressure on tuition and fees.”

Historically, tuition has steadily been a growing percentage of Temple’s budget, increasing from 68 to 78 percent in the last five years as appropriations have inversely dropped at a similar rate.

Corbett’s proposal will now go to the general assembly where the budget will be critiqued in a series of committee meetings until a final version is passed by both houses then signed by the governor.

Representatives from Temple, along with the other state-relateds – Penn State, Lincoln University and the University of Pittsburgh – are scheduled to speak and answer questions from legislators in committee meetings on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The House of Representatives hearing will be at 10:30 a.m. and the Senate meeting will be at 1 p.m. Those not able to attend can watch the hearing on the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s website.

Theobald said he hopes to touch on graduation rates, the effects of the university’s research and Temple’s economic effect on Philadelphia.

If passed as is, Corbett’s proposal would also keep level funding for the three other state-related schools.

The new fiscal year that the budget takes effect is July 1, a deadline that has been narrowly met all three years of Corbett’s tenure so far. In 2009 under Gov. Ed Rendell, the budget failed to pass on time, going overdue by four months and causing a financial strain on the university.

Additionally, the approved appropriations may still be adjusted depending on how much tax revenue the state receives. In 2008, the university’s approved funds were decreased by $10 million due to an unexpected drop in tax revenue. However, Theobald is hopeful for a positive outcome.

“I’ve found both the legislators and the governor’s staff to be extremely supportive of what we’re doing at Temple,” Theobald said. “If there are resources, I’m confident that we will get our fair share.”

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.eduor on Twitter @marcusmccarthy6.

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