We've been waiting for snow and here it is! As I type this on a snowy Presidents Day I'm happy to report we have passed the halfway mark of the 2018 Utah Legislative Session. While activities on the Hill last week included a vote to send a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon to Washington DC, mourning the loss of life experienced in the Florida school shooting, and learning of Mitt Romney's official entrance into the U.S. Senate race, our efforts continued with several legislative committees to provide positive outcomes for Utah's institutions of Higher Education.
Just after noon last Thursday, February 15, it was announced that our own Senator Evan Vickers would add responsibilities of Senate Vice-Chair of Executive Appropriations to his session assignment as our friend Senator Ralph Okerlund awaits a heart & kidney transplant. When I congratulated Senator Vickers on the leadership assignment, his text response included "Hopefully, I can do good things for Higher Ed." Later that afternoon, he took his seat on the important Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC).
The Higher Education Appropriations committee, Chaired by Senator Vickers, placed a 2% merit compensation increase as the top priority of the committee and has been working to restore base budget cuts made on January 26. The proposal also includes an equity adjustment for Southern Utah University and Snow College (sometimes we smaller schools get overlooked). The committee leadership worked hard to acknowledge our efforts, particularly toward retention, completion, and innovation. Much effort this week was spent educating legislators about tuition waivers. While the term "waivers" is used in statute, what this really means to us and our students is "scholarships." These waivers help us recruit and retain students both within and outside the state. A proposed budget cut to waivers would hurt Southern Utah University, Utah State University and to a lesser degree Dixie State University disproportionately. President Scott L Wyatt will be on the Hill again this week to help further this understanding with members of EAC.
Though nothing is official until the budget bills pass in the final days of the session, we have been prioritized to receive funding for:
Utah Summer Games; One-time $50,000
Aerospace & Manufacturing Strategic Workforce Initiative; One-time, $122,562; Ongoing, $152,685.
Compensation, growth, completion, workforce; Ongoing; $3,353,900 (waiver & 0.5% cut reinstatement would add $1,046,200 back in)
Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center; $5 million
Other funding that will impact us to some degree includes $700,000 for Public Lands research (in partnership with USU) and $650,000 for the Utah Academic Library Consortium.
Lest you think I'm brilliant at numbers and notetaking, all of these items are available to view in the meeting materials of the various committees at le.utah.gov.
Let's go have a great short week!