This Week in Richmond

Posted: February 25, 2004 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 legislative situation in Richmond and how those developments directly affect George Mason.

The Sunday release of the House and Senate budgets illustrates the distance both houses must close before the end of the current session of the General Assembly. It is fair to say that both the House and the Senate have committed to providing a significant amount of funding for higher education. While the House commits approximately $100 million, or $50 million per year, and the Senate twice that amount, each approaches the need for funding higher education from a different perspective.

The House has chosen to provide additional funding for higher education and other priorities by applying the following principles:

  • Keep the commitment to replenish the Rainy Day Fund

  • No new spending initiatives or program expansions

  • Level funding programs at Fiscal Year 2004 level

  • Maintain car tax relief at 70 percent over the next two years

  • Limited restoration of previously reduced programs

  • No transfer from the Virginia Department of Transportation into the general fund

  • No general funds for transportation from insurance premium tax

  • Minimize use of one-time savings and nongeneral fund transfers

The Senate has adopted a different approach that provides more revenue than the House and focuses on specific actions and areas of investment that include:

  • Rebuilding the Rainy Day Fund

  • Public and higher education

  • Health and human resources

  • Public safety

  • Transportation

  • Natural resources

  • Virginia’s court system

  • Capital outlay and deferred maintenance

  • Employee compensation

The good news for George Mason is that neither house proposes budget reductions during the biennium and, depending upon the work of the Budget Conference Committee, significant support for enrollment growth and the current underfunding of George Mason is anticipated. The budget conferees are expected to be announced next week, and the budget conference will report its work on March 9.

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