More than seven months after Pennsylvania legislators missed their deadline to pass a budget, Pitt Student Government is saying the University has waited long enough.
At its public meeting Tuesday, Board Member Jack Heidecker and Governmental Relations Chair Pat Corelli introduced a resolution urging Pennsylvania state lawmakers to pass a state budget. Board members will vote on the resolution at next week’s meeting.
Heidecker said it is important to pass the resolution in order to show lawmakers that students care about Pitt’s budget.
“By not making our voice heard, it would indicate that students don’t care, while in fact it’s the opposite,” he said. “[The budget impasse] is creating environment of insecurity at Pitt.”
Heidecker said his concern about the University’s funding gave him the idea for a resolution a few weeks ago.
“As long as they don’t pass a budget, they can’t outlay funds to Pitt,” Corelli said. “Every day they can’t do that, it costs Pitt more money.”
Pennsylvania legislators have debated the budget for the current fiscal year since June 2015. This means state and state-affiliated schools, including Pitt, have yet to receive state funding for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Pitt’s Board of Trustees made this year’s budget based on the $147 million it received for the 2014-15 year, which Chancellor Patrick Gallagher called a risky move at the Board meeting in January.
After a Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Schools meeting Saturday where student governments at the schools discussed the state budget impasse, students from Pitt, Temple University and Penn State decided to draft resolutions calling on the state to pass a budget.
According to Heidecker, the Board plans to pass this resolution in solidarity with Penn State and Temple’s similar resolutions. Penn State’s Undergraduate Association did not respond to messages seeking comment left on their office voicemail or their group Facebook page Tuesday night.
Aron Cowen-Luehrmann, director of government affairs at for Temple Student Government, confirmed the governing group was drafting a resolution similar to Pitt’s.
Lincoln University belongs to the Association but couldn’t attend the meeting.
Lisa Walters, chief of staff to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Mensch, who heads the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, said the senator wouldn’t comment on the resolution until SGB sent him a copy. Mensch has previously rejected Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposals.
After the Board votes on the resolution next week, SGB will make the resolution available to lawmakers.
“Lawmakers may not realize that basically the school is not getting at least $148 million that Pitt needs to run properly,” he said. “As it gets closer and closer to end of fiscal year, we really want lawmakers to understand the effect this has on students.”
According to Corelli, the state government suspended the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grant, the state’s grants to low income students, as a result of the impasse.
“The University has stepped up and fronted cash for the grants,” he said. “The University now grants $10 million a semester, and that money is used to cover what the state should be giving to students.”
According to Heidecker, students should pay attention to this resolution because the budget directly affects tuition costs.
“Pitt is different from a lot of other state schools,” he said. “In-state tuition is lower because of the money it gets from the state. Without that money, we put [the low cost] in jeopardy.”
In other action, Judicial Committee member David Moffa resigned his post this week.
According to Judicial Committee Chair Kyle Hoch, Moffa said he was resigning to focus on graduate school applications and did not want to burden the committee by not being fully committed.
Hoch said he will not seek a replacement this late in the semester.
Panther Judo Club requested $5,673.81 for a competition. The Board approved $448 and denied $5,225.81.
University of Pittsburgh HOSA requested $3,936.60 for a conference. The Board approved $2,929.60 and denied $1,008.