Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick announced Tuesday an agreement to allocate $99 million for the state's share of health benefits, a one-time $55 million transitional payment for FY09, and the development of an incentive funding program for community colleges. Additionally, leadership offices reached an agreement on the appropriate definition of proportionality to include only those community college employees actually paid with state funds.
"I am pleased a consensus was reached on appropriate health benefit funding. And, I am encouraged that we not only clarified the truth-in-budgeting standard for community colleges, but we were also able to place a greater emphasis on achievement through incentive funding," said Gov. Perry. "Community colleges are an integral part of our higher education system in Texas and, through incentive funding, we can begin to hold all our institutions of higher education accountable for the students they produce rather than just those they enroll."
Community colleges will receive $99 million to pay the state's share of health benefits for eligible community college employees and an additional one-time payment of $55 million to transition to the agreed definition of proportionality for health insurance benefits. That definition, as agreed to by the leadership, will include only those community college employees paid with state funds.
These funds will be allocated through a combination of budget execution or other existing transfer authority by September 1, 2008. Any funds removed from another appropriation for this purpose will be restored through a supplemental appropriation when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2009.
"Community colleges are the backbone of our higher education system," said Lt. Governor Dewhurst. "That's why it was critical to me that we restore the vetoed funds and ensure higher education in Texas remains affordable and accessible to anyone who wants it, without putting any extra financial burden on students or taxpayers."
Additionally, the governor, in consultation with the lieutenant governor and speaker, will appoint a task force to make recommendations, to be considered by the 2009 legislature, on how future incentive funds should be allocated. Also, leadership commits to exploring future incentive funding increases for higher education.
"I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement that will fully allocate the money that was vetoed to each community college," Speaker Craddick said. "I want to thank every House member who took an interest in this issue and helped us reach a resolution. I am a strong proponent of community colleges, as they play an important role in preparing our youth for the workforce, and I am confident that this compromise will further improve our community college system."
As part of the agreement, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker will ask community colleges to rescind tuition, fee or tax increases adopted in FY08 and any tuition, fee, or tax increases under consideration for FY09 that have been designed to offset the original veto.
Source: Texas Governor's Office
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