Public Higher education faces major challenges
The House Appropriations Committee met in Richmond on June 21.
The news was not good. Budget updates revealed that the General Assembly action in April was responsible, but painful. Unless the Congressional picture changes, the cuts in Medicaid funding adopted in the spring will be implemented shortly after July 1. While the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that a reduced amount might be funded, there seemed to be little optimism about full restoration of the cuts.
Cuts in FY 11 and FY 12 would be necessary to hospitals, medical education, nursing home support and as well as a postponement of 400 waiver slots funding for more than 400 disabled individuals.
The FY 2011state funding for higher education is also likely to fall.
For the first time since 1993 General Fund support for tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates will fall below the amount to be paid by the students.
Staff speculated that FY12 tuition and fee increases may approach 15%.
Some new models for tuition and fees have been offered as options.
For example, should there be higher prices for new freshmen? Should there be price differentials for certain programs? How does Virginia wish to ensure that children of families with limited income have access to higher education. One approach being currently tested is strong encouragement for new students to enroll in the less-costly community colleges for the first two years with the certainty of being admitted to public universities. Upon graduation, those students would have the same credits degrees as four-year university graduates in the same field of study.
On the ballot in the fall
Three amendments to the Virginia Constitution will be on the ballot in November. As required by the Constitution, the amendments have been passed by two sessions of the General Assembly.
1. The real property of veterans with a 100 percent service-connected, permanent and total disability as determined by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs must be exempted from taxation by the General Assembly.
2. The General Assembly may authorize localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently and totally disabled. The Constitution presently requires that homeowners eligible for tax relief show that an extraordinary tax burden exists in relation to their income or financial worth.
3. This proposed amendment would allow the General Assembly to increase the size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “Rainy Day Fund”) by 50% of the Commonwealth’s annual income and sales tax revenues for the preceding three years.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org