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Southern States Advance Several TBED Initiatives into 2009

June 04, 2008

Legislators in Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee recently approved spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year. Highlights of appropriations supporting TBED are included below.
Alabama legislators wrapped up a special session over the weekend resulting in the passage of a $6.4 billion education budget. Lawmakers agreed to a $5 million increase ($40.8 million total) for the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative. The appropriation is $5 million less than Gov. Bob Riley’s recommendation of $45.8 million. The initiative, which received a substantial boost during the last legislative session (see the June 13, 2007 issue of the Digest), was created in 2002 to improve math and science education throughout the state.
South Carolina
Legislators supported the governor’s recommendation to fund the Endowed Chairs program, providing $10 million in FY09. The endowment program was created in 2002 to receive $30 million per year from lottery profits through 2010. A bill to extend the matching endowment program indefinitely by allowing interest earnings from the fund to be used for programmatic support, H. 4494, did not make it out of conference committee, however.
Lawmakers did, however, pass S.1252, a bill allowing the interest earnings from the Centers of Excellence Matching Endowment Fund to be used at the Research Centers of Excellence Review Board’s discretion for additional state awards.
Gov. Sanford vetoed a major priority of the state’s three research universities -- $4.5 million to implement SC LightRail, a high speed data network connecting the universities and three partner hospitals. The governor reduced funding for the project by $2.1 million from the General Appropriations bill and $2.4 million from the Capital Reserve Fund Appropriations bill. In his veto message, Gov. Sanford stated that the research universities have other ways to complete the project, specifically through their carry-forward and reserve accounts.
Hydrogen research grants were cut by $2.5 million for FY09. Gov. Sanford relayed the same veto message as last year when the grants were also cut, stating that while he is supportive of hydrogen research, tangible results are first needed for the investments already made. Additionally, the governor held his position stating, “We don’t believe the role of the government is to lead the private sector.”

These vetoes were part of the 69 vetoes Gov. Mark Sanford issued, trimming $72 million from the FY 2008-09 state spending plan approved by legislators last month.
Earlier this year, University of South Carolina officials announced a new scholarship program covering the difference between tuition costs and LIFE scholarships for in-state freshmen majoring in engineering and computing. The Engineering and Computing Expanded Life Scholarship is funded with an initial $500,000 from individual donors, businesses and industries and the College of Engineering and Computing. Additional funds will be necessary to maintain or expand the program. South Carolina’s 2008 regular session is scheduled to end June 5.
The FY 2008-09 General Appropriations bill is available at: http://www.scstatehouse.net/sess117_2007-2008/appropriations2008/gab4800.htm
Just weeks before the Tennessee General Assembly was scheduled to conclude the 2008 session, Gov. Phil Bredesen submitted a revised budget proposal for FY 2008-09, trimming $468 million from the budget he unveiled in January. Legislators recently approved the FY 2008-09 budget, agreeing to most of the governor’s revised recommendations, including funding for new and ongoing research projects.
Despite an overall $56 million reduction to higher education, lawmakers allocated funding for several University of Tennessee (UT) initiatives championed by Gov. Bredesen (see the Jan. 30, 2008 issue of the Digest), including:

  • $8.4 million for the UT Space Initiative;
  • $5.6 million for second year operational funds at the UT biofuels center;
  • $3 million for equipment purchases at the regional biocontainment laboratory within the UT Health Sciences Center; and,
  • $1 million for the Mouse Genome Project.

Lawmakers also approved the governor’s proposal to change the GPA requirement for HOPE scholarships from 3.0 to 2.75, allowing more recipients to retain their scholarships. 
Within the Department Economic and Community Development, lawmakers approved $9.3 million for the Tennessee Job Skills Program (the same level recommended by the governor), and the FastTrack Infrastructure and Job Training Assistance program is slated to receive $328,900 in FY 2008-09. Gov. Bredesen’s revised budget proposal also included a $10 million reduction from the Jobs Package.
The budget agreement, SB 4213, is available from the Tennessee General Assembly at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/

Alabama, South Carolina, Tennesseestate budget