Thursday, November 23, 2017
Politics

USF St. Petersburg is among winners in higher education budget

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — Under a budget deal announced Monday, Florida universities will share more than $250 million in state funding for building projects, including $8 million for a business school at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The plan includes $10 million to expand a college of engineering shared by Florida State University and Florida A&M University that just days ago seemed headed for separation.

All told, universities will see an increase of nearly $83 million for construction projects next year compared with the current year. That includes $41 million from capital improvement fees that students pay.

The state funding is still subject to votes by the entire Legislature before it goes to Gov. Rick Scott. It includes $58 million for maintenance and renovation of existing buildings and $156 million to begin or complete construction of new buildings.

Meanwhile, the state's 28 community colleges will share $108 million, including $92 million for new construction, compared with $42 million last year.

Sophia Wisniewska, regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg, said the new business school funds are "great news'' for an institution eager to move forward. "It will give us the synergy and the connectivity that we want," she said.

The school will be built on vacant land the university owns at Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue S. Currently, students take classes in three buildings; faculty have offices in four.

The new allocation, combined with last year's $5 million, means that USF St. Pete now has about half of the projected cost of $27.3 million.

"We now have enough to sign the construction contract," said Wisniewska, adding that a design plan is under way, and ground breaking is anticipated for the fall.

"It really highlights the fact that USF St. Petersburg has come into its own," said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "The community has really gotten behind this project, and it was an easy project to show that it was worthwhile."

On the main campus in Tampa, USF Health received another $15 million for its Heart Health Institute, bringing its total from the Legislature to $35 million for the five-story, 100,000-square-foot facility that broke ground in December. According to USF lobbyist Mark Walsh, the project still will require another $15 million, some of which will be requested next year from the Legislature.

The school also received $5 million to plan for a new building for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

All but one of the state's 12 universities — Florida Atlantic — received construction dollars. The University of Florida will receive $30 million for a chemistry and chemical biology building and a student study building. Florida International University is allocated $5 million toward completion of its student academic center and $10 million to begin the process of relocating the Miami-Dade County Fair and acquiring land near the Modesto Maidique Campus in Miami.

Florida State will get $20 million for its Earth Ocean Atmospheric Sciences building while FAMU was awarded $10 million to expand its pharmacy college.

The $10 million budgeted for the engineering program in Tallahassee shared by FSU and FAMU will help expand a 32-year-old partnership that recently seemed in peril. Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican rumored to be interested in leading FSU, inserted $13 million into the Senate budget to help create a separate engineering program for FSU.

House leaders never agreed to the plan and lawmakers eventually compromised with a $500,000 study that gives the state Board of Governors, which oversees universities, final say on the future of the engineering school. The study is due by January and the board would have to make a decision by March

Thrasher's $13 million is off the table, but he said it still served a purpose.

"I'm happy about that," he said. "We would never have had the conversation about (separating the schools) if we had not put the money in."

Comments
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 11 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Published: 11/22/17

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17