Tampa Bay area lawmakers challenge Senate move to cut USF funding, while students petition
A controversial proposal to cut state funding to the University of South Florida by almost 60 percent has led many lawmakers representing the area the university serves to blast the idea.
Rep. Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel, the House speaker designate, said on Twitter that he won't abide the push by Sen. JD Alexander of Lake Wales, who has been trying with little success to force the independence of USF Polytechnic.
"@USF should not and will not be singled out for cuts in their budget. Good news is that we have a bicameral Legislature," Weatherford wrote.
Republican senators Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Paula Dockery of Lakeland issued a joint statement saying they will fight the move as well.
"We stand united in our opposition to the proposed cuts to the University of South Florida’s funding for the next fiscal year," they wrote. "We also stand opposed to the attempt to split off the USF Lakeland campus to create a new state university. While this split is being used as a major argument to justify the cuts, we see it as nothing more than an unconscionable push to force an issue that neither the university nor the students want.
"We call upon leadership in the Senate to see this blatant and outrageous move to hurt the University for what it is. It is our hope that the Senate president will step in and put a stop to this abuse of the legislative process. The University of South Florida has been singled out from all other universities in the state for cuts that will devastate this fine school. All institutions of higher learning understand that budget cuts may happen in this tight fiscal year, but all should be treated fairly. This proposal is anything but fair. It is politics pure and simple."
Students have launched an online petition to challenge the proposed cut as well. So far, more than 2,100 people have signed.