2015 Legislative Update – Week 2

There is additional legislation with potential impact to higher education. Much of the focus continues on the budget, and the Higher Educations Appropriations Subcommittee continues to meet this week.

2015-2016 Budget.  Six USHE presidents gave excellent presentations to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee (Presidents Wight and Huftalin presented previously). Their messages all provided relevant insights on common higher education issues as well as highlighting the unique characteristics of each USHE institution:

  • President Dave Pershing, University of Utah
  • President Stan Albrecht, Utah State University
  • President Scott Wyatt, Southern Utah University
  • President Matt Holland, Utah Valley University
  • President Biff Williams, Dixie State University
  • President Gary Carlston, Snow College

Presentations provided an institutional lens on the Board of Regents’ Completion Strategy as well as successful efforts with students and employers in meeting rapidly changing workforce needs.  All of the presidents elicited praise and support from legislators for their efforts and leadership. For example, from Senator Howard Stephenson following remarks by President Stan Albrecht:

“I am stunned by what you’re doing. I just am so moved by your presentation.  This is precisely what we’ve been hoping and looking for.  Not only the fact that you’re driven by your data and the data you’ve shown is so powerful… I just want to express my gratitude for the way you’re moving the needle. The changes are just so powerful, thank you so much.”

Lynne Ward, Executive Director for the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP), also updated the committee on the Plan’s continued growth and popularity.  UESP recently received a Gold Rating from Morningstar for the fourth consecutive year, one of only four plans nationwide to receive that designation in 2014.

As part of the one-time budget reduction made by the Executive Appropriations Committee before the 2015 legislative session, all appropriations subcommittees were requested to identify a 2% cut to existing base budgets, including higher education.  The Legislative Fiscal Analyst proposed the Utah Medical Education Council (UMEC) be abolished as part of the 2% base budget cut. Rick Campbell, UMEC Executive Director, was given an opportunity to provide background on UMEC:

  • A public-private partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Healthcare, St. Marks Hospital, and Salt Lake Regional Hospital funding 45 medical residents in high need specialties and regions in the state.
  • Tracks the medical workforce needs of the state, creating efficiencies in training efforts.
  • The National Institute of Medicine cites UMEC as a model other states should follow.
  • UMEC provides comprehensive research on the health professions in Utah that guide decision-making by educational training programs and the health care industry.

The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously voted to submit the base budget for higher education, H.B. 1, without the 2% base budget cuts. However, when the Executive Appropriations Committee met on Friday to consider the subcommittee’s proposal, it added an across-the-board 2% reduction to reduce the higher education base budget despite the subcommittee’s unanimous recommendation to not make a cut to the base budget.

Efforts will continue in the coming weeks to restore the base budget cuts as well as fund the 2015-16 budget priorities. Commissioner Buhler and Presidents will present the Board of Regents’ 2015-16  budget request to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee  on Monday, February 9.

Audio recordings and materials, including presentations from the institutions, for all Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meetings are online. To access materials for a specific meeting, click “View List” on the right column under “Meeting Materials.”

Capital Budget. Commissioner Buhler explained the Board of Regents’ capital prioritization process and priorities to the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on February 5, and individual institution requests will be made Monday, February 9. The agenda, when available, will be posted here.

Key Legislation of Interest to USHE

  • HB 123, Tuition and Fees Assistance for Utah National Guard Members* by Rep. Val Peterson, this bill expands the allowable tuition assistance for a Utah National Guard member to include fees. The bill was passed unanimously by the House Education Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full House.
  • HB 198, Strengthening College and Career Readiness* by Rep. Patrice Arent, creates the Strengthening College and Career Readiness Program to improve students’ college and career readiness through enhancing the skill level of school counselors for college and career counseling. The bill directs the State Board of Education, in collaboration with the State Board of Regents, to develop a certificate for school counselors for providing college and career counseling. The bill currently awaits a committee hearing.
  • SB 64 (1st Substitute), Utah Educational Savings Plan Amendments* by Sen. Todd Weiler, modifies tax credit provisions related to the Utah Educational Savings Plan to allow for a portion of an individual income tax refund to be contributed to a qualifying Utah Educational Savings Plan.  UESP Executive Director Lynne Ward has worked closely with Senator Weiler on this bill.  Current statute only allows for an individual’s entire income tax refund to be contributed. The bill also makes technical and conforming changes. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Business and Labor Committee and awaits further consideration by the Senate.
  • SB 65, In-state Tuition for Families of Fallen Public Safety Officers Amendments by Sen. Curt Bramble, modifies current statute providing tuition waivers for a surviving family member of a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty to include fees and eliminates considerations of financial need of potential waiver recipients. The bill has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting further consideration by the House. An amendment is expected to clarify specific types of fees eligible for use by this waiver.

* USHE has taken an official position in support. ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition. For more information on legislation, committee agendas, or to view or listen to floor debates, see: http://le.utah.gov/

Information on this page is current as of Feb. 9, 2015.

Media Inquiries

Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director