College Communications Home
||House Votes to Cut
College Funding by 10%
BOISE - The House Republican majority on Monday cut state support for higher education by
10 percent, following through on a plan hatched months ago to cope with the state's worst
budget crisis in two decades.
The 52-17 vote sent the bill to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who proposed the reduction to cope
with an eroding economy and protect last year's record tax cut.
"We've turned the rocks, and we've looked under them, and we gathered all the money
we could feel comfortable spending," Rep. Dennis Lake of Blackfoot said.
The budget for the three state universities and Lewis-Clark State College for the
2002-2003 school year incorporates the $7 million cut lawmakers made in this year's
allocation and then slashes another $16 million on top of that.
Kempthorne signed the $64.1 million in cuts to this year's budget on Monday. That was
nearly $9 million more than he called for. In addition to slashing higher education, the
bill cuts $23.3 million in state aid to public education -- the first time schools have
ever seen cash taken away in a budget crisis.
The university and college presidents have already made it clear that scores of faculty
will be laid off, class offerings will be reduced and other programs will be scaled back
or eliminated. At the same time, student fees may be hiked up to 12 percent.
"When we shortchange higher education, we shortchange the students, the citizens and
the businesses of this state," said Doug Jones of Filer, one of the few Republicans
to join the nine Democrats in opposing the budget.
Democrats have blamed at least part of the budget crunch on last year's tax cut, even
though many of them supported it.
"Don't sit here and whine because we don't have any money," House Democratic
Leader Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum said. "We don't have any money because you made some
irresponsible decisions last year."
With leaders pressing to wrap up the election-year session this week, both the House and
Senate pushed ahead on major pieces of the budget that called for reductions in basic
spending for all programs except health education subsidies. It is the first budget that
provides less cash for public schools next year than was originally allocated for this
Because of the state's low ratio of doctors to citizens, both Kempthorne and the
Legislature protected the four additional medical scholarships and one additional dental
scholarship they approved last year.
The Senate approved that budget on Monday and sent it to the House but not before
Republican Laird Noh of Kimberly, the senior member of the Senate, criticized the package
for failing to make needed investments in veterinary training.