I hope you have all seen the news out of the House, which yesterday passed House Bill 1485 – the budget bill.
In the House bill, PASSHE’s appropriation is $427.8 million; that’s $75.5 million, or 15 percent, less than the State System received last year. Obviously, a $75 million cut is better than a $270 million cut. But let me articulate what we all recognize: it’s still a big cut. We wondered in March about where the shared pain was and now we have a budget where we share it (though it’s still inequitable), but it is still pain.
This kind of appropriation cut could lead to about 1,400 personnel layoffs (including faculty and staff) WITHOUT a tuition increase. Even with a significant tuition increase, the State System projects layoffs with this scenario. That is still a scenario with layoffs, in a time when our economy can’t stand more unemployment, and our student numbers continue to grow. Who provides those students with education and support with fewer staff?
For the record, it would take an 8.7 percent increase in tuition – about $500 – to fill the entire gap.
The next revision of the budget looks to be in the Senate. According to news reports, a number of Senate Republican leaders think the House bill is the floor, not the ceiling. The Senate has people that are willing to grow the overall spending number from the $27.3 billion proposed by the Governor and used by the House. With a projected revenue surplus of more than $500 million this year, they seem willing to move that into the 2011-12 budget.
So, there’s hope of doing better.
But we need to apply pressure to our Senators. Maybe we can move the needle a bit more, so that vital programs are saved and we can continue to provide the quality education we promised our students.