State - Lansing House committee aims to retain funding for universities Bill could come up for a vote this week on the floor

By Tim Martin

Associated Press Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Democrats who run the Michigan House moved this week toward approving a budget bill that would maintain current levels of state aid for public universities in the next fiscal year.

The bill, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee mostly along party lines, could come up for a vote on the House floor as early as this week.

The Republican-led Senate has approved a version of the higher education budget that would cut university funding by 3.1 percent in the budget year starting Oct. 1. The bill, once it passes the House, likely will head to a conference committee where members of both chambers will try to reach a compromise.

The repercussions could be significant for students attending the state's 15 public universities. Reductions in state aid often lead to higher-than-normal tuition increases as universities turn to students and parents to help make up the difference.

"There's always a direct relationship between the two," said Mike Boulus of the Presidents Council, which represents Michigan's public universities. "I think the more money we receive from the state, the more moderate the tuition increases will be."

There are some conflicts to resolve on the House floor related to the higher education bill. Republicans will try to force a vote on an amendment that would place some reporting requirements on public universities that do embryonic stem cell research in the state.

Democrats blocked votes on those amendments Tuesday.

Republicans are trying to balance an anticipated shortfall in Michigan's next budget without tax increases. The Senate has voted to erase a projected overall shortfall of $1.3 billion in the state's general fund through spending cuts and savings, but Democrats oppose many of those measures.

A Senate committee on Tuesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would cut the pay of all public employees in the state by 5 percent on Oct. 1. The measure would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass the Senate, unlikely since supporters earlier this year were unable to get enough votes to repeal a 3 percent pay raise scheduled to take effect for unionized state workers on Oct. 1.

The new proposal would have to be approved by two-thirds votes in both the Senate and House before going to voters for their consideration.

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The higher education budget bill is Senate Bill 1157. The pay cut provision is Senate Joint Resolution U.

Published: Thu, May 27, 2010