Hillsborough commissioners to ask legislature to spare USF from cuts
Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to send letters to legislative leaders asking them not to support sharp spending cuts for the University of South Florida included in a Senate budget proposal.
"This will be devastating to the University of South Florida," said Democrat Les Miller, a former state legislator who has a part time job as student ombudsman at USF.
Miller said he would not comment on what he thinks is behind the Senate cuts to USF, which, as proposed, would lop funding at the university by 60 percent, or about $104 million. But he said it would force faculty layoffs, much larger classes sizes and other changes that would hurt the school's status as a major research university.
The proposed cuts, far greater than recommended for any other university in Florida, are seen as the handiwork of Sen. JD Alexander, the Polk County Republican who is that chamber's budget chairman. He is seeking to establish a separate Florida Polytechnic University out of USF's Lakeland campus, which would focus on science and technology degrees. Last week, legislators moved to speed up that transition.
Republican County Commissioner Victor Crist, another former legislator, said the proposal from the Senate is likely a leveraging maneuver for when separate and likely different budgets from the House and Senate end up in a conference committee. It will give the Senate side a bargaining chip.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican who is not a former legislator, was more blunt in describing what he thinks is going on. He said he snapped at his children Monday night because he was so mad after learning of the Senate proposal and its potential effect on USF.
"It's no way to run a university system. It's embarrassing," Sharpe said. "I'll call it what it is: Vindictive, petty politics."