State may restore Pitt funding

By Gwenn Barney

Recent developments in Harrisburg indicate that Pitt might retain its current state funding… Recent developments in Harrisburg indicate that Pitt might retain its current state funding levels for next year.

While Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a 30 percent cut in February to three of the four state-related universities — Lincoln received a proposal for level funding — the state House panel approved legislation on Thursday that prevents that cut. In May, the state Senate passed similar legislation to restore funding to the state-supported and state-owned universities.

However, Corbett’s office was not ready to confirm that Pitt would be spared from the proposed funding cuts.

“In February, the Governor doesn’t have a crystal ball to determine what the revenue will be [in June]. With increasing revenue the state was able to restore some funding,” said Tim Eller, Pennsylvania Department of Education press secretary. “But the budget is not finalized.”

Eller added that no details of the budget could be confirmed until negotiations are complete in Harrisburg and a finished budget is released.

Pitt spokesman Robert Hill acknowledged that the pull back on the proposed cut is not yet set in stone.

“We are grateful that the General Assembly restored Pitt’s appropriation to last year’s level in the latest budget proposal,” Hill said. “But this is simply the next step in the budgeting process. We are hopeful that the current budget legislation will eventually become law.”

Members of both the Democratic and Republican parties recognized the positive aspects of adjusting Corbett’s proposed funding for higher education.

“It’s clear there was bi-partisan support for reversing this year’s cuts for higher education,” said House Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, in a statement, which went on to say that he was disappointed the funding levels were not returned to those of two years ago.

Last year, the final budget passed with only a 19 percent chop to the funding of Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln. To help fill the resulting $40 million budget gap, Pitt raised in-state tuition by 8.5 percent and out-of-state tuition by 4 percent.

Republican Senate President Pro tempore Joe Scarnati also addressed the importance of restoring funding to the state-related universities.

“As a parent of a college student, I recognize that keeping our universities properly funded and limiting tuition increases should be our goal for every budget,” he said in a statement.

The House’s legislative move came a day after the governor joined with members of the house and senate leadership to announce that they had arrived at a $27.66 billion state budget agreement.

Members of the general assembly and the governor continue their negotiations this week with July 1 looming as the start to the new fiscal year. If a budget is passed by the June 30 deadline, this year’s budget would mark the second the Corbett administration has passed on time. Last year’s budget also passed before the deadline.