Factors such as Hurricane Harvey or the price of a barrel of oil seem like they would be unrelated to the bottom line of a graduate school in Fort Worth.
But the reality is that all sorts of seemingly disparate issues can directly impact our budget – and those of every other public university in the state. These next few months in Austin, where the Texas Legislature kicked off its 86th session earlier this month, are crucial as lawmakers set our funding levels for the next two fiscal years.
The big-ticket items that will draw most of the attention during this session are property tax reform, public education (K-12) and hurricane relief.
The good news: Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently projected that there will be about $119 billion in state funds available for the next two-year budget, up from $110.2 billion in the previous two-year cycle. The increased funds primarily come from the state sales tax, and rising oil prices and production.
We anticipate higher education funding – and our overall budget – to be relatively stable. Our legislative priorities include funds for the construction of a 180,000-square foot, student-centric building. We are requesting additional health-related formula funding to help maintain our current enrollment and support our values-based One University vision to define and produce providers of the future.
We also are asking for additional support for the groundbreaking work of the UNT Center for Human Identification. The Center’s cutting-edge research and critical casework aids law enforcement agencies across the country and embodies our purpose to transform lives in order to improve the lives of others.
We hope to secure continued funding for SaferCare Texas, which focuses on reducing medical errors and makes sure Texans receive high-quality health care through extensive education, community outreach initiatives and quality improvement programs.
Fortunately, we have an outstanding team representing our interests and outstanding lawmakers who have long championed our efforts. Danny Jensen, Vice President for Government Affairs, who has been with UNTHSC since 1984, ably carries our message, along with Jack Morton, Rey Rodriguez and Steve Colovas. We also receive tremendous support from Rep. Charlie Geren, Senator Jane Nelson and other leaders in Fort Worth and Austin, and we look forward to working with newly elected Senator Beverly Powell.
I will keep a close eye on developments in the Legislature in the coming months and pledge to keep you informed on major events.
Thank you for the extraordinary work you do at UNTHSC.
My best always,
Dr. Michael R. Williams