Legislature advances budget proposal to Heineman


By Scott Stewart

The Nebraska Legislature advanced its two year budget proposal to Gov. Dave Heineman’s desk on May 13. The package of bills maintained the Appropriations Committee’s recommended increased for the University of Nebraska.Legislative Bill 315, the main budget bill, includes $499.9 million in general funds for the NU system for fiscal year 2009-10 as well as $508.4 million in general funds for fiscal year 2010-11.

These funding levels correspond to the Appropriations Committee’s recommendations made in April. However, they are still far below the university’s initial requested increases, which were $525.3 million for 2009-10 and $561.2 million for 2010-11.

Heineman has until May 19 to decide how to act on the budget. His options include line-item vetoes, which state law permit on budget bills. The Nebraska Legislature has the chance to override any of Heineman’s vetoes.

In addition to LB 315, which passed on a 46-2 vote, the budget package includes several other bills. For complete information, visit the Unicameral Update blog run by the Nebraska Legislature.

NU President James B. Milliken released a statement on the budget proposal from the Nebraska Legislature.

“The current economic conditions affect the state’s budget – just as they affect most Nebraskans,” Milliken said. “We will do all we can to manage our budget during the next two years to preserve affordable access to higher education, enhance the quality of our academic programs, and maintain the significant momentum we have seen in recent years. The university is in a relatively strong position today, and that is important to the economy and quality of life in Nebraska.”

After Heineman approves the budget, or any vetoes are resolved, the next step in the university budget process comes on June 12, when the NU Board of Regents will meet to set tuition rates for the 2009-10 academic year.

“State funding is an important element of our total budget, and it has a significant impact on tuition, financial aid, and the quality of our programs,” Milliken said. “In June, we will make final budget recommendations to the Board of Regents, and we won’t know until then what the impact will be on each of our campuses. We do know that there will be some difficult decisions, but we will continue to be guided by our priorities.”

After the June meeting, Milliken will announce campus budget allocations by June 19, and the chancellors will make final budget decisions by the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

In the past three years, the regents have held steady at 5 percent tuition increases as well as a 1 percent required increase for facilities maintenance projects each year. Milliken told The Gateway in April that he expected tuition increases to be in the single-digits.

“We will not balance the budget by drastically higher tuition,” Milliken said. “The students will not bear the entire burden of a shortfall.”

Dramatic tuition increases have not been unheard of in university history, however.

Following the 2003-03 fiscal year, UNO saw a 15 percent increase in undergraduate resident tuition, according to data provided by Institutional Research. In the four-year period between the 2002-03 and 2005-06 fiscal years, tuition at UNO increased by 55.8 percent.

Speaking to the Faculty Senate on May 13, Regent Bob Whitehouse said tuition dollars would not over the entire budget shortfall, which will make personnel and program reductions necessary.

“The Board of Regents is not going to place on the back of our students and our family – at a time when they can least afford it – more and more tuition than we’ve had in the last three years,” Whitehouse said. “I honestly don’t think there’s a regent that I sit with that would even consider going more than that, and there are several out there that are talking a lot less.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here