Nearly three months before the deadline, the Michigan Legislature determined a large portion of the state budget for the next fiscal year Friday.
Lawmakers discussed and voted on legislation until 2:00 a.m. Saturday, but the bill providing a 1-percent across-the-board increase for the state’s public universities passed both houses relatively quickly in the middle of the day.
Michigan’s public institutions will see an overall budget increase of $14 million. The 1-percent increase will allocate an additional $3.2 million to the University, bringing the total state appropriations for the Ann Arbor campus to $326 million.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed budget included a 3-percent increase for state universities, as did the state Senate bill passed in early February. Another bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month allocated an average increase of 2.8 percent.
But when state revenue fell $400 million short of what Granholm and lawmakers anticipated, budgets were cut or given smaller increases. The governor and state legislators negotiated Wednesday to resolve the revenue deficit and settled on the 1-percent increase for higher education, the same increase universities saw last year.
“I was hoping for more obviously, but given the current financial situation with a $400 million deficit in our spending, we all had to take certain cutbacks,” said Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea), chair of the higher education appropriations subcommittee.
“We’re disappointed,” said Mike Boulos, executive director of the President’s Council of the State Universities of Michigan, which represents the state’s 15 public universities. “We started at three, the state fell on some tough budget times and we’re a victim of the whole structural deficit that continues to deflate the whole state of Michigan.”
Boulos said he was grateful higher education was one of the few budgets to see an increase.
Granholm also recommended the bill include a cap on tuition hikes at the rate of inflation, preventing state universities from raising tuition any more than 2.3 percent. Both the Senate and House rejected the provision.
“The governor recommended 3 percent, we were coming in at 1 percent and it was just unrealistic to make the universities hold down their tuition when we were not giving them the recommended (3-percent) increase,” said Byrnes, whose district includes North Campus.
The University’s budget, passed during the University Board of Regents’ June 19 meeting, based a 5.6-percent increase in undergraduate tuition on an estimated state appropriation increase of 2 percent, a figure double the actual increase.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said in an e-mail interview that administrators estimated a state appropriations increase between 1 and 2 percent, but chose to draft the University’s budget based on the higher end of the anticipated range. The goal, she said, was to keep the tuition increase at 5.6 percent. Administrators planned to delay new investment initiatives if the state budget was lower than anticipated.
Cunningham said final decisions haven’t been made regarding which new initiatives will be postponed or cut. She said Provost Teresa Sullivan has mentioned the University would carry out its plan to hire 100 new faculty members at a slower pace that originally intended.
“One investment that we will absolutely maintain is the 10.8-percent increase in centrally-awarded financial aid,” Cunningham said.