Gov. Bush proposes more funding for higher education

After last year’s budget cuts, Governor Jeb Bush announced Tuesday afternoon budget proposals for the 2004-2005 fiscal year, recommending a substantial increase in higher education funding.

In 2003, Bush recommended a $111-million budget cut in higher education, a move which drew heavy criticism from students and administration members from across the state.

Last fall semester, USF raised tuition by 8.5 percent as a result of the lack of funds coming into the university, said Dick Beard, chairman of the Board of Trustees. A reduction in the summer class schedules during the last fiscal year added to USF’s concerns of generating more revenue.

Unlike last year, education remained a top priority in this year’s budget proposal by Bush and Lt. Governor Toni Jennings.

Bush’s budget recommendations for the ’04-’05 fiscal year for higher education included $144.1 million in direct support to state universities.

“It’s much better than where (USF) was last year,” said Michael Reich, USF Media Relations Director. “(Bush’s budget proposal) is a good starting point for the university as (USF) looks forward to the Legislature.”

Reich added that the proposed $131.4-million student enrollment figure would hopefully bring more students to USF and as a result more revenue will come into the university.

Reich also talked about the $25million-addition to the Matching Gifts Program, which matches whatever donations the university receives. Reich said this program suffered last year because of the lack of funds, but with the proposed $25 million it has the potential to help USF obtain more money from donations.

Bush’s budget has a bonus $4 billion compared to last year’s plan to be allocated within education, Social Security, public safety and tax relief.

Throughout the address, Gov. Bush stated that the Florida budget has stabilized and recommended a total state budget of $55.4 billion for the new budget year that will start in July.

Bush’s proposals will be discussed in the Legislature when Florida lawmakers convene in Tallahassee on March 2.