We began the legislative session with a success that was long overdue – the passage in November’s general election of SJR 101. This constitutional amendment released us from constraints on our ability to use student fees to meet the highest priorities of the University, specifically instructional activity. It did not change the way we raise fees nor increase the burden on our students.
We did see what some considered a setback. Our general education budget request (Senate Bill 1181) was reduced 4.06 percent (about $3 million) by a Senate vote of 28-7 and a House vote of 47-21-2. Given some of the proposed cuts that were being circulated, this budget reflected an increasing level of support among our legislators.
This was also reflected in the passage of a measure that made no reductions in the Agriculture Research and Extension budget from FY11. The Senate passed this measure (Senate Bill 1169) by 70-0 vote. The House approved with a margin of 33-2. Again, I believe this reflects an understanding of the importance of our University’s agricultural research and extension education programs.
Appropriations (Senate Bill 1183) for University special programs and research passed the House by a vote of 63-4-3 and the Senate by a vote of 35-0. The WWAMI Medical Education Program budget passed in Senate Bill 1204.
Finally, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee directed a study of the way the State Board of Education and the legislature allocate funding for higher education. The University of Idaho staff will have the opportunity to work closely with those conducting this review for the legislature as they carry out the study. Again, I believe this signals increased interest in the true state of higher education in Idaho.