BREAKING NEWS: State rep. stands by threat to cut funding

Thousands of students could be displaced if the university is forced to raise tuition by $5,000. (Morgan Zalot/TTN)

TTN reporter Amanda Fries contributed to this report.

State rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) is standing by his threats to cut $175 million in state funding to Temple University, potentially causing a $5,000 increase in tuition.

Today, not long before a student rally and march on Taylor’s office began at the Student Center, Taylor said students should look to the administration and what it has done rather than blame lawmakers for the potential tuition increase.

“Temple University decides what tuition rates are, but we decide how they are funded,” Taylor told The Temple News this afternoon. “That’s not an automatic thing where they can expect funding each and every year without any accountability to anybody.”

Taylor’s threats to pull state appropriations for the university came after a bitter battle over the closing of Temple’s Northeastern Hospital in Port Richmond. Taylor maintains that the Port Richmond community, which falls under his jurisdiction, was hurt by Temple’s decision to close the hospital’s doors last month.

“That is not the kind of behavior that we would expect from any corporate citizen, but certainly not one that received its funding from the very people that it hurt,” Taylor said. “We feel that we are shareholders in Temple, and, in fact, we are. In any case when the shareholders are ignored by the board of directors, we have a right to complain.”

State rep. Dennis O’Brien, who also opposed the closing of Northeastern Hospital, however, stated in an e-mail to a concerned student today that “negotiations with the University have been productive.”

O’Brien wrote in the e-mail that he expects funding could be restored to Temple as early as next week.

Taylor, however, showed no sign he would back down this afternoon.

He said he didn’t know if there was another way to get his point across without affecting so many students and employees of the university with something as drastic as a $175 million funding cut.

“I don’t think anything is affecting anybody at this point,” he said. ” … I think that their [students’] upsetment [sic] should be directed at the administration there.”

Students could face a $5,000 – or 45 percent – tuition increase this year if the threat from local lawmakers comes to fruition.

Temple was set to receive $175 million in Commonwealth appropriations
this year, all of which may be cut by a bill to be voted on by the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The bill was pulled by Taylor on
Tuesday in retaliation, after Temple faced criticism since
its decision to close Northeastern Hospital due to increasing financial loss
was announced in March 2009. Northeastern Hospital reportedly lost $6.6
million in the 2008 fiscal year and was estimated to lose another $15
million in the 2009 fiscal year.

“Our focus and concern is on the Pennsylvania residents who are Temple
undergraduate students,” said Ken Lawrence, Jr., senior vice president
for government, community and public affairs. “Without a Commonwealth
appropriation, these students could experience a tuition increase of
45 percent, or roughly $5,000 dollars. We respect Rep. Taylor and stand ready
to discuss his concerns. However, our students should not be punished
with a potentially devastating tuition increase.”

Local politicians scrutinized Temple officials for not
establishing or maintaining a dialogue with the lawmakers to
find an alternative to cutting off inpatient services at Northeastern. The hospital
now functions as an ambulatory care center, offering non-emergency and outpatient services.

Though four Philadelphia lawmakers lobbied against the closing of the
hospital, Taylor is the only one who has lobbied for all of Temple’s
state appropriations to be cut. Sen. Michael Stack (D) and Sen. Larry
Farnese (D) have not officially cast their support for or against the
cut.

Yesterday, O’Brien said, “I’m going to support Temple,” but refused to elaborate.

Temple students and affiliates, however, have been campaigning against
the cut, flooding local lawmakers’ phone lines, inboxes and mailboxes
with their protests.

Although Temple is a state-affiliated school, funding is
never guaranteed, Temple Student Government Vice
President of Services Jon DeSantis said.

“Rep. Taylor has a lot of power and has the potential to get the
necessary votes,” he said.

The university has already cut $40 million from its operating budget
in order to maintain a lower, 2.9 percent tuition increase this year.

The General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill next week.
Temple has encouraged all to contact their local legislators in order
to voice their opinion on the bill.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about our students and what kind of burden
this would mean for them,” university spokesman Ray Betzner said.
“It would be substantial.”

Stay with www.temple-news.com and www.twitter.com/thetemplenews for continuing updates on this developing story.
Kathryn A. López can be reached at kathryn.lopez@temple.edu.

6 Comments

  1. Rep. Taylor’s strong-arm tactics to withhold $175 million in state funding to Temple University smacks of bad politics. In order to receive emergency treatment myself in November of 2008 I had to travel to the next county. Boo Hoo do I blame the community in which I live, no. I blame the fact that Pennsylvania continues to have the highest malpractice insurance rates in the country. As Governor Rendell himself said, Pennsylvania had 1,602 malpractice cases filed in 2008 the great majority of those filed in Philadelphia. Look no further then than the garbled politics of this state for the blame in why so many hospitals are forced to close. Maternity or Emergency services near Skippack Pa Montgomery County, hmmmmm Chester County perhaps, not sure, maybe Pottstown about 12 miles to the West? Philadelphia is complaining about having to drive another 5 or 10 minutes. Please, grow up and realize that not everything in today’s world/today’s economy and today’s geography is right around the corner. Besides why should another 5 or 10 minutes make a difference in the capable hands of trained emt’s and expectant mothers shouldn’t wait til crowning to go to the hospital. Most of all, regardless, none of this gives Mr. Taylor the right to harm students at Temple University. Oh wait, that’s exactly what politicians do, let’s hurt the future generation before they even get out there.

  2. Why is it that I have yet to find any public statement from O’Brien or Farnese, both of whom supposedly support funding for Temple, stating that they do support funding for Temple?

    It’s funny to see them scrambling to backpeddle and claim that they do support funding Temple. (Despite the fact that there is an article from the Inquirer back in March that reiterates everything for the new article.) I guess it’s because they realized that they’ve got more Temple students and alumni in their voting ranks than Kensington residents.

    This is perhaps the most disgusting and blatant act of politicians holding the public hostage. This isn’t so much about funding or not funding the university, or feigned caring about the poor. It’s about politicians exploiting their power over us. It would be wonderful to see representatives from Temple College Democrats or Temple College Republicans decrying these tactics. College Republicans seem to be more interested in “lol Denny O’Brien isn’t really a republican, lollerskates” or claiming to support a free market solution (close a hospital that is draining money), while College Democrats are too busy blaming Temple for closing the hospital while using the bullshit excuse of “OMG TU WAS WARNED THAT POLITICIANS WERE GONNA MANIPULATE THE SITUATION FOR POLITICAL GAIN AND CUT FUNDING SO IT’S LIKE TOTALLY TEMPLE’S FAULT!” Oh, wait, I’m sorry, they did take the time to get off their asses and sign onto a lukewarm letter that basically said “closing the hospital sucks, and so do you, you meanieheads!”

    If you actually think this is about helping the poor, removing $175 million in funding from TU will harm the poor much more than closing Northeastern Hospital. It makes getting an education that much harder, will force layoffs throughout the University system (not that this is terrible, Temple enjoys employing the worthless. If you don’t believe me, head to disability resources. What a friggin joke), and will have to cut down on research and services, much of which will likely benefit the poor. It’s not difficult to see why this situation is a damn problem.

  3. As a Temple Alumna, I must wonder if they’d pull this stunt with a school that *wasn’t* ethnically diverse.

    Probably not. So glad I left Pennsylvania.

  4. the administration of this university, including the health system is the worst in the country. The goal is not to cut the funding, but to use democracy as leverage to either get rid of the scum at the top or force them to change their arrogant behavior.

  5. Taylor says that the appropriation is not something Temple can expect to get every year without any accountability to anybody, and he’s absolutely right. Temple should start being accountable by doing honorable things like providing a top-notch education at an affordable price. Oh, wait. They were already doing that? Ok, well, then they should invest more time giving back to the community by getting students involved, like having dental students open a clinic, or encouraging accounting students to assist members of the community with their income taxes, or how about developing some sort of permanent relationship with the Philadelphia public schools in the area? Oh.. Temple does all of those things, too?

    I guess Taylor forgot to do his research.

    Bottom line, Representative Taylor would rather blame Temple than our failing economy for the disposition of his neighborhood hospital. But that’s understandable, because you can’t punish the economy like you can an organization. Especially when that organization depends on you for money.

    Taylor, no one contradicts the fact that closing Northeastern Hospital was unfortunate for your community. But everyone opposes the method by which you seek vengeance. You are using an academic institution as bait in a pond full of Pennsylvanians. We love our education! Even if one guy bites, there are millions of us who will tip your boat before you get a chance to unhook him. You’re just not strong enough to eat us. Er, beat us. If you want to retaliate, why don’t you go create some jobs in Port Richmond and throw it in the face of our dwindling economy. That’ll really strike a nerve.

  6. I am very upset with the way Taylor’s office handled northeastern hospitals, laid off employees. In a letter recieved at time of layoff the employees were told they if there was a position within one year period they would be considered a candidate for the position. 92 employees applied for this position and all were turned down the position was given to an outsider who did not work within the temple health system or union. employees have called Taylors office of this matter,and never got any responce. this makes me wonder why do we vote?

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