Current as of April 3, 2009
Governor Mark Sanford just concluded a Columbia press conference clarifying his request on stimulus funds, as there has been widespread confusion in both media and policy circles about what last night’s 11th hour announcement that he would request “most” of the funds meant. That confusion continued through much of the morning in Columbia.
This afternoon, the governor cast his deadline request to Washington for federal stimulus funds as merely procedural, but emphasized that he still has no intention of using the portion of the stimulus funds for the education purposes intended by the federal government unless state legislators agree to allocate equivalent state revenues to “paying down state debt” and putting an unspecified number of dollars into a “rainy day fund.” (The latter is apparently a new condition.)
He emphasized that he has until September 2010 to draw down on the federal funds for stabilization that are earmarked for education, so he does not feel compelled to necessarily do so for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He provided no explanation of why only the education funds were being so treated.
It is clear that the governor intends to make this a long-running saga. Winthrop will not have the luxury of a protracted period of time for this set of circumstances to play itself out, however. It is incumbent upon us to continue to make the most reasonable plans we can for the budget that will take effect July 1, based on a revenue picture that will include no federal stimulus dollars. That will mean annualizing all spending reductions made to date, and preparing for a likely additional reduction in state funding of $1.3 million, as outlined by the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education earlier this week. Keep in mind that our state appropriation is already almost $6 million (27 percent) below this time last year. The additional cut discussed this week in Columbia would bring the appropriation reduction to approximately $7 million (over 34 percent reduction since this time last year.)
We, of course, will be prepared to accommodate any improvement in this situation if a means of making federal stimulus dollars available to Winthrop for the next fiscal year, as intended by the federal government, is found.
Please know I am continuing to consult with other public officials about next steps, and they are as concerned as we in the campus community are. I will continue to keep you updated as events warrant.