During address, a call to restore funding
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 02:02
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan outlined her budget proposal to the state legislature on Thursday in Concord, stressing the need to restore funding to the University System of New Hampshire.
In a presentation that marked the beginning of the state government’s debate on the next two-year budget cycle, Hassan proposed a number of different initiatives to improve funding for certain sectors and raise more revenue for the state. She spent a large portion of her time speaking about higher education.
Hassan connected increased funding to state colleges with the ability of the state’s economy to be innovative and successful in the coming years.
“The drastic cuts made to higher education in the last budget have hurt our ability to train a highly skilled workforce and to give our people the bright future they deserve,” she said.
Lawmakers slashed nearly 50 percent of USNH’s budget in 2011. Hassan said that she would restore the budget to 90 percent of where it stood prior to the cuts, increasing it by $20 million in fiscal year 2014 and another $15 million in fiscal year 2015.
“Ever-rising tuition rates can force many families to avoid even considering New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities, hurting our competiveness,” Hassan said. “If we hope to encourage job creation and innovative economic growth, we cannot keep losing our young people or fail to develop our workforce.”
Hassan said that university system leaders have pledged to freeze tuition for two years for in-state students if her proposals to restore funding to USNH are met in the final budget.
Carter Bascom, external affairs council chair of the UNH student senate, said that he was happy with Hassan’s show of support for the state’s higher education system. But he said he was not surprised, given how hard many have been working to see UNH’s budget restored.
“I believe it is the responsibility of the governor and the state to restore funding back to the university system if it cares about the future and success of the students and to make UNH more affordable for students and families,” Bascom said in an email.
Bascom said that UNH Works, the group of advocates asking the state to restore funding to the university, will hold “Dear Concord” workshops on Feb. 26 from 1-2 p.m. in the MUB’s Granite State Room and on Feb. 27 from 2-5 p.m. in the Strafford Room.
“The focus will be on asking state legislators to support the restoring of the budget and help continue to support UNH and the university system,” Bascom said of the workshops.
On the same day Hassan was presenting her budget at the state capital, UNH President Mark Huddleston was in the nation’s capital testifying in front of Congress. Huddleston spoke at a hearing on tax reforms and charitable contributions on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., highlighting the importance of charitable giving to higher education.
While he was not in Concord to hear Hassan’s address, Huddleston did react to the governor’s budget proposals.
“I am very pleased that Gov. Hassan has recommended beginning to restore funding for UNH and the state’s other four-year public colleges and universities,” Huddleston said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “This action will not only make higher education more affordable for Granite State students, but in the long term, it will grow the state’s economy, attract new businesses and provide jobs. The governor’s commitment to affordable and accessible higher education is crucial to the future of this state and its people, and we look forward to continuing to partner with her in this effort.”
Mica Stark, special assistant to the president for government relations, was in Concord to hear Hassan speak. He, too, was pleased with her support for the state college system.
“The support of the governor is critical as the process continues through the House of Representatives and the Senate,” Stark said in an email. “A clear message of support is affirmation of the great work the university does and can do more of with support from the state.”
The House of Representatives and the Senate now have until June 30 to finalize a two-year budget that will end on June 30, 2015.
Stark said that he, Huddleston and other members of the president’s cabinet would continue to work to convince the state legislature to restore the funding cuts to USNH.
“We have been working hard with our advocates to provide members of the legislature with the facts they need to make informed decisions and encourage them to make funding for UNH a priority in the state budget,” Stark said.