Higher education has received two more proverbial blows to the head. Dr. Stuart Bell has accepted the job as president of the University of Alabama system, and the House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to pass the SAVE plan.
As chairman of the Board of Regents, I believe this chaos could have been prevented in the House if the SAVE plan (Senate Bill 284 by Sen. Jack Donahue) would have been passed last week. The House had another chance Tuesday.
SAVE is simply an assessment on each student in all four higher education systems with a corresponding tax credit equal to the student assessment. To avoid having the student pay the assessment, at the time of registration, the tax credit is assigned by the student to the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents then applies to the Department of Revenue for payment of the assessment. The funds come from taxes and disallowance of tax credits passed this session, so the budget is declared revenue neutral. It is a compromise. It is the only solution to passing the budget before June 12.
Hey, House members: Medical school starts July 1! Shreveport has the largest medical class in its history.
SAVE is not complicated compared to the usual labyrinth of regulations that I deal with daily. The functional methods to implement SAVE are similar to TOPS funding of tuition. SAVE is capped at the amount of tax increases ($350 million), so the statement made and reported that it is a wide-open avenue for the legislature to raise taxes is ridiculous.
The idea that a House member would strive to push the Legislature into a veto session in July is not only irresponsible and unworkable, it places higher education in the crossfire among warring factions. SAVE hurts no one.
SAVE has been called “fake.” What is not “fake” are the higher education cuts that will materialize in the budget if it is not “revenue neutral.” The “chest-pumping” that many House members demonstrate clamoring to dive into a veto session that can only start in late July may change to humiliation in the face of a true veto session that may not turn out like they expect. Remember, the governor has a line-item veto.
It is conceivable that House Bill 1 emerges as a balanced budget with no new taxes and a $280 million slash to higher education. That would be a “Black Swan” event and survivable for few institutions. Passing SAVE avoids this war, and SAVE could be changed next year. Cutting $280 million out of the higher education budget now cannot be fixed next year. The patient would be dead.
I urge you to call your House members to vote for the SAVE plan.
Roy O. Martin III