Citing investments Penn State has made to help boost the economy of Pennsylvania and improve the quality of life of its residents, University President Graham B. Spanier told state legislators last week that a larger state appropriation is needed.
At the same time, legislators on both the state House of Representatives and Senate appropriations committees spoke positively about Penn State, its leadership and its current efforts to contribute to the Commonwealth and its citizens.
Spanier appeared before the appropriations committees of the Senate on Feb. 22 and the House on Feb. 23 to seek more funding, answer questions and explain Penn State's $1.5 billion operating budget in greater detail. Spanier told legislators that the 2.5 percent increase in state funding proposed by Gov. Tom Ridge was not adequate for the University to continue its current level of service.
"The 2.5 percent increase is not enough to meet the University's needs in the areas of deferred maintenance, costs of technology and instructional equipment, purchase and acquisition of library materials, fuel and utilities, services to the state, salaries and employee benefits and programmatic priorities," Spanier said.
Penn State is looking for a 4-percent boost in funding for basic operating costs, which the president said is the smallest budget increase Penn State has sought in years. The University is also looking for additional money for three special initiatives. The total request is for $321 million in state funds -- an increase of $21.8 million over last year's appropriation.
The three initiatives Penn State is hoping to gain special program funding for are current Commonwealth priorities, according to Spanier. They are: the launch of a new School of Information Sciences and Technology ($4.5 million request); an expansion in workforce development programs ($3 million); and aid to several identified areas within agricultural research and cooperative extension that are key to Pennsylvania's economy ($2.5 million).
The president said he believes the message that Penn State's many contributions to Pennsylvania's economy, its citizens, its success and its future is being heard across the state.
Spanier told state lawmakers that Penn State's budget was "not in any way inflated" and that all of the expenses are justified. He warned legislators that Pennsylvania could be left behind other states if it fails to make a stronger investment in higher education. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks 47th in per capita support for higher education.
Spanier also made a strong case for salary increases for faculty and staff, indicating that the largest part of the University budget is allocated to salaries and employee benefits. He said it is extremely important for the University to offer competitive salaries to promote the recruitment and retention of talented employees.
In the coming weeks, the governor and the Legislature will be involved in budget negotiations to shape the state's 1999-2000 fiscal plan. During that time, legislators may increase the appropriation Penn State receives.
Penn State's budget is available on the Web at http://www.psu.edu/dept/budget/
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