Rep. Simpson to UofL and UK Presidents: If you want more money, work harder for tax reform

02/20/2014 08:42 PM

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and University of Louisville President James Ramsey spent an hour Thursday telling House lawmakers how proposed 2.5 percent cuts would set their campuses back and push tuition up higher than they’d want.

They made compelling cases against the cuts. UofL has a program at risk of being put on probation because of lack of space, Ramsey said. Professors and researchers at both institutions are in need of raises to keep up with other universities in states that haven’t cut back as much. And UK won’t make its General-Assembly-ordered goal from 1997 of becoming one of the nation’s top 20 research universities with state funding levels that are lower than they were 10 years ago, Capilouto said.

A 2.5 percent cut amounts to about $3.5 million at the University of Louisville. And UofL brought in more money last year in donations and fundraising through its foundation ($142 million) than what the state provided ($141 million), Ramsey said.

Currently, state funding makes up 11.4 percent of the university’s total revenue. That’s down from nearly 30 percent in 1997-98. The university has had to rely more on income from tuition, which has gone up from less than 15 percent of revenue in ’97-‘98 to more than 20 percent now.

And Ramsey said if the General Assembly approves a budget with those cuts, “tuition is going to go up more than what we’d like it to go up.” But he told Pure Politics later that it’s too early to tell how much that would be. Last year, the Council on Postsecondary Education approved a tuition increase cap of 3 percent for the current school year.

But after Capilouto and Ramsey finished their pitches, Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington and the chairman of the House budget panel that focuses on higher education, gently suggested that if they want more money, they might want to ramp up their public statements urging lawmakers to take on tax reform, which could either provide more money right away or at least revamp the tax code to grow better with the economy.

Ramsey, who served as state budget director under former Gov. Paul Patton, said he’s always been supportive of tax reform and has told anyone who will listen.

Simpson, in turn, suggested later that Ramsey amplify that message in public remarks moving forward.

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