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Governmental Relations

Legislative Update - Friday, February 25, 2011

State Budget

There are two bills that propose state funding levels for state agencies, including higher education---House Bill 1 (HB 1) and Senate Bill 1 (SB 1 ). The total biennium state appropriations to the Alamo  Colleges under each of these bills amount to about an $81 million reduction to the Alamo Colleges when factored for formula funding, enrollment growth, employee health insurance and retirement contributions. Before the state cuts of 5 percent and 2.5 percent for the Alamo Colleges, annual formula funding state appropriations for the Alamo Colleges were $72.1 million. After the state cuts, the net state formula funding allocation is $65.3 million. HB 1 calls for formula funding appropriations of $66.7 million and $63.5 million under SB 1.  An important consideration is that the current formula funding allocation of $65.3 million was based on previous years contact hours.  Two years ago, enrollment at the Alamo Colleges was about 52,000 students generating about 20 million contact hours.  Today, we have an enrollment of over 65,000 students generating 24 million contact hours.  HB 1 and SB 1 contain no monies to fund enrollment growth.  At committee meetings, Commissioner Raymund Paredes has encouraged legislators to fund enrollment growth. Approximately 80 of our students, representing all our colleges, traveled to Austin on February 2 and met with legislators to explain the need for increased state funding for higher education and to express their concerns related to the proposed state cuts  Trustee Roberto Zarate testified before the Senate Finance Committee on February 8, on the impact of SB 1 on the Alamo Colleges.  Mr. Zarate emphasized that Trustees would be forced to make the difficult decisions in terms of raising revenue through increased property taxes and student tuition.  Dr. Bruce Leslie testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on February 18, on the impact of HB 1 on the Alamo Colleges. To put things in perspective, Dr. Leslie made the point that total HB 1 reductions would amount to almost an entire year of state appropriations to the Alamo Colleges or the equivalent of all funding to St. Philip’s College. He encouraged legislators to use the $9.4 Rainy Day Fund and to treat community college employees medical and retirement benefits as they treat university employees.

Momentum Points

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes has been advancing the argument that colleges and universities be partially funded on what is known as Momentum Points.  Commissioner Paredes proposal is for the state to withhold 10 percent of formula funding allocations and redistribute to colleges and universities based on their success on several factors.  This concept has been incorporated into HB 9 by Representative Dan Branch, Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, that calls for community colleges to be partially funded based on student successful completion of developmental education in Math and English, completion of the first college level course English and Math with a grade of “C” or higher, improvements in the transfer rate to four year universities, total number of Associate Degrees awarded and the completion of certificate programs.

Employee Group Health Insurance and Retirement

Current biennium state appropriations for employee group health insurance for community colleges is $323.2 million.  Under HB 1 this amount is reduced to $57.1 million, a reduction of 82.3 percent.  Under SB 1 employee group health insurance allocation is $198.4 million, a reduction of $124.8 million or 38.6 percent. Current estimated biennium state contribution for community college employee retirement benefits are $202.5 million. Under HB 1 that amount is reduced to $113 million for a 44.2 percent reduction and under SB 1 it is reduced to $115.4 million or 43 percent.  

Student Financial Aid

Current biennium state appropriations under the Texas Grant program is $615 million.  HB 1 and SB 1 reduced this amount to $365.7 million, a reduction of almost $250 million.  There are about 3,200 Alamo College students that currently receive Texas Grants for $4.9 million.  Current biennium state appropriations for the Texas Education Opportunity Grant (TEOG) is $24 million.  HB 1 and SB 1 reduce this amount to $6.8 million.  There are 865 Alamo College students that currently receive $1.3 million from TEOG.  Current proposed state reductions could lower the number of Alamo College students that benefit from state financial aid programs. In addition, HB 1520 calls for awarding Texas Grants to needy students, and taking into account the student’s percentile rank of their high school graduating class, grade point average, completion of an advanced high school program, and SAT score.    

Concealed Handguns on Campus

HB 86, 750, 1167 and SB 354 are legislative bills that would allow concealed handguns on campus.  SB 354 by Senator Jeff Wentworth has 14 of the 31 State Senators as co-sponsors.  HB 750 by Representative Joe Driver has 79 of the 150 State Representatives as co-sponsors.  The Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees approved and passed a Resolution opposing such legislation at its board meeting of February 22.  The Resolution has been mailed to the Bexar County Legislative Delegation and other state officials.  In media interviews, Chancellor Bruce Leslie has expressed his concern for guns on campus in part because we have high school students present at our colleges and because of the presence of children,  such as at the Child Development Center at San Antonio College. Dr. Eric Reno expressed his concern to the board on this issue because of the tragedy that occurred at Northeast Lakeview College in October 2008. As a legislative option, the Board Resolution calls for allowing institutions of higher education to adopt policies prohibiting possession of a firearm and ammunition on its premises.  
In general, some state officials are delivering the message that there is no money to give. Some state legislators are calling on the use of the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) that has $9.4 billion. Other legislators are proposing that the “structural deficit” be addressed. Some state legislators are proposing the raising of revenue by temporarily increasing the sales tax, allowing gambling, or the creation of an instant ticket lottery game with revenue dedicated to the Texas Grant program (SB 780).

Thank you for your kind attention.
Leo Zuniga
Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications