This Week in Richmond…

Posted: February 28, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This weekly column, written by Thomas Hennessey, chief of staff to President Alan Merten, is published to keep the university community informed on the budget situation in Richmond, and how those developments directly affect George Mason. The column appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

While other General Assembly legislative issues may seem more newsworthy, higher education waits for critical budget issues to be finalized. Those of most concern to George Mason are the final base budget reductions, tuition and fee policies, and capital projects.

The House and the Senate proposals vary with George Mason receiving a 10-14 percent base budget reduction for the 2002-2004 biennium. While both the House and Senate have repealed legislation that freezes tuition, the criteria for setting tuition levels remains unclear. Both the House and the Senate incorporate assumptions on tuition increases in their final budget recommendations, with all tuition increases retained by the institutions. The remaining reduction in education and general funding is expected to be approximately 3.2-4.4 percent, or $13-16 million dollars.

Two bills, the Commonwealth of Virginia Educational Facilities Bond Act of 2002 (House Bill 99) and the Commonwealth of Virginia Higher Educational Institutions Bond Act of 2002 (House Bill 100), provide major funding for George Mason capital projects. House Bill 99 is the General Obligation Bond Bill that requires voter approval in November. House Bill 100 provides construction funds as soon as Gov. Mark Warner signs it. Both bills have been approved by the House and the Senate and should be on their way to the governor this week.

Senate and House representatives to the Conference Committee will soon be named. This small group of legislators must reconcile the differences in the House and Senate budget proposals. Once they report their results, it is expected that the House and the Senate will approve the compromises and forward the budget to the governor. All this must be accomplished before March 9, the final day of this session of the General Assembly.

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