Erickson Speaks with Senators about 2013-14 Budget Appropriations

HARRISBURG – Speaking for the second time this week in the state capital, Penn State President Rodney Erickson urged Senators to keep the partnership between the University and Pennsylvania strong in the coming fiscal year.

After appearing Monday before the House Appropriations Committee, Erickson and the other leaders of Pennsylvania’s state-related universities, spoke with the Senate Appropriations Committee for two-and-a-half hours yesterday in Harrisburg. Gov. Tom Corbett announced Feb. 1 that appropriations for the state’s four-year universities would remain level in his proposed budget plan. Erickson and the leaders from the universities of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln agreed that more support is crucial in the future.

“We understand the situation that the Commonwealth has been in and continues to be in,” Erickson said, “but I would hope that beginning with fiscal (year) ’15, we can begin to rebuild the Commonwealth’s commitment to state-related and other public institutions.”

Corbett’s call for level funding would mean about $214 million for Penn State’s educational and general budget, $44.7 million for agricultural research and extension, nearly $13.9 million for Penn College and $6.5 million for the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Penn State is seeking a $2.4 million increase in agricultural research and extension, and Erickson said today that flat-funding would mean a reduction in programs statewide. If approved, that increase would “keep pace with the cost of doing business and nothing more,” he said.

Agricultural Research and Extension funding has dropped by as much as $12 million due to cuts in recent budgets. Through the funding lag, Erickson said, the College of Agricultural Sciences has lost one-quarter of its faculty and staff. Vacancies were not filled, early retirement was offered and some employees were laid off to make due, he said.

“We’ve been a partner with the Commonwealth for a 150 years as of this April 1,” Erickson said, “and it’s been a remarkable and wonderful partnership for us, and we want that partnership to remain strong as Pennsylvania’s land-grant university.”

The University is also seeking more funding for the Academic Medical Center line item, which under Corbett’s flat funding for 2013-14 represents 50 percent of what was put forth in the 2010-11 budget. Penn State is seeking a return to the 2010-11 level of $19.2 million, $5.8 million of which would go to Penn State Hershey.

Committee Chairman Sen. Jake Corman, whose district includes University Park, commended the top administrators for cost-containment efforts and expressed hope that funding would increase in the future.

“I think our greatest resource in the commonwealth is our higher education institutions,” he said, “and one thing we learned — what’s most important about the four universities that are in front of us today — is that you give access. You give access to people to get a higher education degree who wouldn’t normally have access, and that is immeasurable.”

Senate and House lawmakers now must agree on a budget and present it to the governor for his signature by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. The governor’s full $28.4 billion budget proposal for the state is available here.

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