The committee has released its initial report to the Unicameral for the $7.8 billion two-year budget. The committee report differs from the proposed budget submitted by Gov. Dave Heineman in a few areas, mostly notably in higher education funding. The Appropriations Committee has set aside nearly $20 million less than the governor for the University of Nebraska four-campus system.
Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, told reporters at the Capitol the committee is waiting to hear from university officials about the deal struck with the governor; which will reward the university with additional state appropriations in exchange for a freeze on tuition.
“How did they come to that number in regards to a tuition freeze? Full well knowing that literally a week after the governor released his budget, the Board of Regents chose to ultimately increase room and board fees, a sizeable fee increase on room and board students at the University of Nebraska, which is also a question I know committee members have brought forward in discussions,” Mello stated.
The University of Nebraska issued a written statement by Milliken in response.
“I was surprised and disappointed by the preliminary recommendation from the Appropriations Committee. The University of Nebraska has ambitious goals to grow enrollments, expand programs in agriculture, medicine, engineering and other programs that directly affect Nebraskans, attract new talent to the state and contribute to Nebraska’s competitiveness in the knowledge economy – but all of these will require investment and we will not be successful without the partnership of the state. We have understood the economic pressures that led to five straight years of flat appropriations, but this is not a sustainable trend if we are to remain both affordable and competitive. We will continue to ask the Appropriations Committee to invest in the university as it is in other state priorities.”
Milliken is traveling this week and unavailable for interviews.
Milliken will have his chance to address the Appropriations Committee later this month. The hearing for the University of Nebraska is scheduled for March 19th at the Capitol.
The preliminary budget also allocates less to Nebraska’s other state colleges and its two-year institutions.