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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Massachusetts House passes $28.2 billion budget

A five percent increase for the University of Massachusetts system was included in the state budget for fiscal year 2009.

The increase, passed in the budget that was completed on May 2, will give $24.2 million more to the five-campus system spending plan, half of which typically goes to the flagship Amherst campus. Under this House budget, funding for the five-campus system will increase from $469 million to $493.2 million.

Funding for student financial aid was increased by $3 million, from $93.8 million to $96.8 million. The House also gave $15,000 to further the possibility of establishing a system of state universities, a plan under consideration by the state colleges last year.

The dual enrollment program at public higher education institutions received $1 million.

Student Trustee-elect Lindsay McCluskey said that she is satisfied with the increase, though she and groups Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Students Uniting actually asked for a larger increase, of $17.1 million.

“I am happy with the allocation for PHENOM,” said McCluskey. “But public higher education is unaffordable for many; students cannot afford a better education. Our hope is that each year the state will increase this funding and that someday, public higher education will be free in Massachusetts.”

PHENOM has been lobbying legislators to work toward the passing of several legislations that would go toward the Massachusetts higher education system. Such legislations include a bill to allow the state to borrow $2 billion for much-needed repairs and construction on all five university campuses, a bill that would establish a loan forgiveness program for students who meet certain criteria and a bill that would make textbook publishers cease the requirement to buy additional materials, such as CD-ROMs and workbooks with a textbook, among other proposed bills.

Meanwhile, the Ways and Means Committee has not yet completed its financial plan but is expected to release its proposed fiscal year 2009 next week. During the week-long debate, lawmakers did not add any funds to the budget proposed by the Committee, but a number of allocations were approved, including $500,000 for the Cranberry Station at Wareham, $50,000 for 4-H and $250,000 for Future of Work initiatives at the labor centers in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell.

Another $368,000 was given to Gaston Institute at UMass Boston, $60,000 for the Grace Grossman Youth Collaborative at the Nantucket field station, $500,000 for Portuguese Studies at Dartmouth, $50,000 for the Center for Business Research at Dartmouth and $541,000 for the Collins Center for Public Management of the McCormack Institute in Boston.

House members succeeded in raising state employees’ share of health insurance premiums. State employees currently pay 15 percent of health insurance costs.

The original proposal for the state budget was actually $27.9 billion, a 0.3 billion difference from the passed budget of $28.2; however the budget proposal for the University system was not affected.