House and Senate can't agree to terms on USF Poly and budget cuts, so now JD Alexander, Denise Grimsley weigh in
The final round of negotiations concluded tonight between the House and Senate subcommittees on higher education, with a few major issues left unresolved.
How will $300 million in cuts be spread among the state's 11 universities?
After four rounds of talks, the committees didn't decide.
Should USF Polytechnic in Lakeland immediately break away from USF in Tampa and become the state's 12th university?
While Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, successfully convinced his senate colleagues to approve the move -- over the objections of USF faculty, administrators, and students -- the House has yet to address the issue.
So that means the issues are "bumped" up to the next leadership level in the two chambers, the appropriations chairs: Rep. Denise Grimsely, R-Sebring, and, yes, that guy again, Alexander.
To be sure, the House isn't expected to deny Alexander's wish for a new Polk County university. It's just not clear how the chamber will address the issue.
Speculation has it that House Speaker Dean Cannon is holding out, so he can swap USF-Poly for something the House leadership wants. What that is, no one knows.
If the House does decide to split USF-Poly, then it has to decide how USF will absorb the cuts.
In the Senate, Jim Norman, R-Tampa, got $10 million restored to help USF absorb USF Polytechnic's faculty and staff. USF says it needs $18 million to do that. Norman also restored $3 million to cover USF's pharmacy program. USF is fervently fighting for an additional $3 million to be restored.
Until the House decides on the USF-Poly split, those issues remain question marks.
Perhaps the outstanding issue that has the universities most on the edge is how $300 million in cuts will be divvied up.
During Thursday night's sub-committee meeting, staff mentioned three possible methods.
1) Divide up the cuts by reserve funds. The more a university has set aside in a reserve fund, the more it will absorb in cuts.
2) Divide up the cuts by the size of a school's general fund budget. The bigger that general fund budget, the bigger the cut.
3) Divide up the cuts by the amount of revenue a school raises through tuition.
The winners and losers should be determined this weekend, which promises to be a long one.