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March 6, 2003

Governor's budget cuts Pitt 5%

Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to cut Pitt’s state appropriation for next year by 5 percent would reduce the University’s state funding to $14 million less than it was two years ago.

Combined with $8.8 million in mid-year reductions in approved state funding that Pitt has absorbed during the last two fiscal years, Rendell’s recommended 5 percent cut would “impose a disproportionate burden on the University and place Pitt at funding levels comparable to those of the late 1990s,” a Pitt statement protested. “Reductions of this magnitude create strains on the University’s people and programs and increase pressure on other funding streams, including tuition.”

But University officials said it’s too early to make specific predictions about next fall’s tuition rates or the fiscal year 2003-04 salary budget for staff and faculty.

“We’re hoping that, as the budget process wends its way through the next several weeks, we will come out with an appropriation that is more favorable than what has been proposed,” said Robert Hill, Pitt vice chancellor for Public Affairs.

Rendell’s proposed 5 percent cuts in funding to Pitt and Pennsylvania’s other state-related universities (Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) was part of the $21 billion spending proposal that Rendell unveiled March 4 in his first budget message to the state legislature.

Declaring that deep cuts were needed to fend off a potential $2.4 billion shortfall, Rendell acknowledged that some of his proposals — including cuts to higher education, mass transit and health programs — would bring “real hardship.”

“I hate this budget with every fiber of my body,” the Democratic governor said before reiterating his intention to propose a complementary fiscal plan later this month, one that would include tax increases and initiatives aimed at stimulating Pennsylvania’s economy.

But Republican leaders said they would try to quickly pass an austere budget modeled on the one that Rendell proposed this week.

Pitt “realizes that it has an important role to play in assisting the commonwealth in meeting the challenges of these difficult economic times,” said the University statement responding to Rendell’s proposal. “But it also is critical to recognize that research universities such as Pitt, when properly funded, are among the commonwealth’s greatest assets in hastening its economic recovery, both through providing workforce education and serving as catalysts for economic development.”

—Bruce Steele

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