Governor Haslam delivered the State of the State Address last night, the first of his second term as Governor. The yearly address is an important part of the legislative process, formalizing the Governor’s budget and policy priorities and setting the tone for the next few months of legislative debate and action.
The Governor made clear that his focus will remain steadfast on education. UT Advocates may recall this post from December, when UT President Joe DiPietro presented UT’s top five funding requests to the Governor in his annual budget hearings.
Overwhelmingly, UT’s requests were honored in the Governor’s $33.3 billion spending plan. It is now up to the legislature to consider the budget proposal, a process that will take several months. We’ve provided a status update on each UT budget priority below.
FULLY FUNDED: Request for full allocation of funds based on campus performance. The state’s funding formula for higher education has recommended UT schools receive $9.7 million in new funding based on performance. The Governor proposed full funding of the State’s outcomes-based funding formula in his State of the State Address and the budget document recommends a base budget increase– fully funding this budget request for UT campuses.
Why This Is Important: UT has worked hard to make sure its institutions are the top performers in the state in order for the campuses to be awarded funding. Last year, the University was awarded 34 percent less than the formula recommended. Recurring cuts in state funding for higher education are a main driver of tuition increases, and fully funding the formula helps mitigate the need for a significant increase in tuition.
PARTIALLY FUNDED: Request for $7.3 million in additional funding for UT institutions that provide services to all Tennesseans. The requested funding would cover the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), which has a presence in all 95 counties, Institute for Public Service (IPS) and Health Science Center (UTHSC). The Governor’s budget proposal recommends an operating increase of $4.9 million specifically for these UT non-formula units
Why This Is Important: These institutions provide services that benefit all Tennesseans. In 2013, UTIA, IPS and UTHSC provided outreach to more than 6 million people. And unlike our traditional campuses, these units have limited or no tuition mechanisms to increase funding.
FUNDED: Funding requested for the West Tennessee 4-H Center and Knoxville-Science Laboratory Facility. The state’s higher education coordinating agency (THEC) ranked both projects in the top six for funding by the state, and they are both recommended for funding in the Governor’s budget proposal.
Why: Both projects are critical to moving the University forward. The West Tennessee 4-H Center would fulfill a key part of the University’s outreach mission, providing youth in west Tennessee with a camp experience in addition to serving as a conference center. The science laboratory will provide new facilities to educate students and produce groundbreaking research. The University has already raised matching funds for these projects.
PARTIALLY FUNDED: Funding requested for building safety and maintenance. The University requested $53 million for 11 projects that will improve building safety and upgrade some existing facilities. The Governor’s budget proposal recommends funding six of these projects, totaling $23.8 million.
Why This Is Important: This funding will go toward ensuring our campuses are providing safe learning and work environments for our faculty, staff and students. Projects included in the Governor’s budget proposal include upgrades for ADA compliance, fire safety upgrades, roof replacements, and security upgrades. There are maintenance projects for UTC, UTK, UTM, and UTHSC included in the Governor’s proposal.
FUNDED: Salary increases requested for UT employees. President DiPietro requested, at a minimum, a cost-of-living salary adjustment. The Governor’s budget proposal authorizes a 1.5 percent merit pool increase for public higher education employees. Based on the Governor’s proposal, increases and compensation adjustments will be allocated based upon merit. They will not be across the board.
Why This Is Important: The University has a $150 million market gap in terms of employee pay that it is trying to close over time. As state employees, the University is asking the state to help fund increases for UT employees, as their work is critical to the state’s future. UT employees did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment in last year’s budget. Further, funding these adjustments will help UT remain a competitive employer in higher education.
FUNDED: UT Pediatric Research Initiative
The Governor’s budget proposes $3 million in matching funds for a joint pediatric research initiative of the UT Health Science Center, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The initiative, ‘UT Peds,’ has helped reduce childhood obesity and asthma as well as assisted in recruitment of world-class staff, researchers, and physicians to treat Tennessee’s children.
This is year three of a five-year state funding commitment of $15 million.
We’ll keep you updated throughout the legislative session on these priorities and other issues that arise that impact the University of Tennessee. As always, thank you for your support of the University of Tennessee System.