Legislative priorities announced

On Jan. 15 Governor Sonny Perdue released his Amended Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Eight days earlier, on Jan. 7, Tech released its 2010 state legislative priorities. The list, which can be found at www.gov.gatech.edu, specifically details the Institute’s most important goals in this year’s 40-day legislative session. Four of Tech’s five budget goals were either recommended in their full or partial amounts in the governor’s amended budget proposal.

However, the state’s budget reduction for the University System of Georgia (USG) will be approximately 8.2%, 0.2 percentage points higher than the number approved by the Board of Regents (BoR) at its Nov. 2009 meeting. This most recent reduction brings Tech’s total reduction in state funding over the past two years to $55.1 million, a 19% reduction.

“We have prepared for this and have been prepared for this,” said Dene Sheheane, executive director of government and community relations. “A lot of this information was already known and expected.”

Sheheane and his staff, along with Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and a number of others, work throughout the year to promote and share Tech’s political agenda so that Georgia General Assembly is familiar with its objectives once the legislative session formally begins.

“What we do is basically work to strengthen and build relationships with government leaders so that Georgia Tech’s strategic priorities receive recognition and support,” Sheheane said.

These priorities include securing seven million dollars in bonds for the completion of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC). Securing increases in new “formula funds” (which support day-to-day operations) and “Major Repair and Rehabilitation Funds” for USG institutions are another top priority.

The Institute will also be requesting another 4.5 million dollars for its on-campus “Eco-Commons” project, which aims to rework storm water management and initiate landscaping improvements.

The Institute’s final goal listed in its announcement is to have lawmaker’s renew a provision that allows USG schools to “carry-forward” certain funds from one fiscal year to the next.

“Primarily [the seven million dollars in bonds] is the equipment money to outfit the labs [in the CULC]. Given that the building will be heavy on the lab side, there are some natural expenses that come with that. It will allow for us to properly equip the building,” Sheheane said.

Governor Perdue has proposed the full seven million dollars in bonds for the CULC’s completion. The governor has only partially recommended Tech’s requests for increases in USG formula funds and Major Repair and Rehabilitation Funds. He has thus far recommended $113 million of the $139.8 million in USG-requested formula funds and $60 million of the $75 million in requested USG Major Repair and Rehabilitation Funds. Tech stands to receive a particular portion of these totals, depending on the Chancellor of the BoR’s allocation process.

“We don’t know right now what [the Chancellor’s allocation] would be,” Sheheane said.

Governor Perdue has recommended that the entire $4.5 million requested by Tech for its Eco-Commons projects be issued. Unlike the USG requested funds, these funds would go directly to Tech in full.

“Basically, we entered into an agreement with the city of Atlanta that we would relocate a storm sewer to redirect water into an eco-common area. It’s a project that would allow us to reclaim some water and add some green space to campus. It’s all kind of near the Bio-Tech Campus,“ Sheheane said.

The official legislative session began last Monday and is currently only four days into its 40-day session.

“Typically they do not approve a final version of the budget until the last day of the session,” Sheheane said. “So much can happen between now and day 40. We’ll be working diligently on these priorities. “

Because of it’s non-continuous format, the final day of a legislative session can fall anywhere from mid-March to early April.

Both chambers of the General Assembly have been in recess this week to begin budget hearings.