Hammond commends Gov. Brownback's budget proposal for higher education

With the state facing a tight budget that will require cuts in many agencies, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced a recommended budget on Tuesday that basically preserves funding for higher education through the next two fiscal years.

The detailed proposal that was released on Wednesday recommends essentially no reductions in the budgets of the Kansas Board of Regents institutions, including Fort Hays State University.

"This shows Gov. Brownback's commitment to higher education," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president.

The president noted that when he traveled across the state in late November on his annual Media Tour, he used a wheel analogy to describe the pivotal role of higher education in what the governor had described as the "grand experiment" to reduce income taxes and thereby boost the state economy.

"As I explained then, the first arc of the wheel was reductions in business and personal income taxes that the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law last session," Dr. Hammond said. "The next arc of the wheel is the growth in business and industry expected to result from those tax cuts. That growth will create new jobs, and those new jobs will require trained workers. Therefore, higher education, which includes universities, community colleges and technical colleges, must close the circle by educating new workers to fill those jobs."

Gov. Brownback recommended support from the state general fund for FHSU of $33,422,006 for fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1. That compares to $33,509,397 for FHSU from the state general fund in the current year. The minor difference reflects the cost of death and disability insurance, which has no actual impact because the university will get less and also spend less for that item.

Also, in a new approach to state budgeting, the governor has recommended a budget for a second fiscal year, beginning on July 1 in 2014. He recommended $33,473,101 from the state general fund for FHSU in fiscal year 2015.

"Because of the state's limited resources, many state agencies are facing budget cuts from 8 to 10 percent in fiscal year 2014, which begins in July," President Hammond said. "The fact that the governor held harmless the Kansas Board of Regents system during a time of massive reductions is very positive."

FHSU has been cited by a variety of sources for the excellence of its academic programs, most recently in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of online programs.

"We are excellent in all our delivery modalities -- on campus, online and in our China program," President Hammond said. "State cuts in our budget would have eroded that excellence."

The president said reductions in some agencies were unavoidable in order to balance the state budget for FY2014. In fact, the director of the budget had suggested a reduction of $2,853,913 in the FHSU budget, but the governor restored that money in his final recommendation.

"This action by Gov. Brownback reaffirms his strong belief that higher education is essential for his plan to grow the economy of Kansas," Dr. Hammond said.

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