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2011 Key State Legislative Priorities

VCU will continue to focus much of its attention on fiscal issues during the 2011 Virginia General Assembly session.  In addition, the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform has made a number of recommendations on the future direction of higher education which will be the subject of legislation to be known as the “The Top Jobs Act”.   The Health System is also seeking to reverse budget actions from last session that cut provider reimbursement for Medicaid services.  Key areas of activity are listed below.  Weekly updates will be provided throughout the session on this website.

Tuition increase budget proposal.  The introduced budget authorizes VCU’s expenditure of only one-half of the tuition increase approved in April 2010, in 2012.  While VCU is still empowered to collect the tuition increase, a specific budget authorization is required to be able to spend it.  VCU will be seeking to reverse this proposal so that VCU can fill the significant hole in its budget created by declining state financial support and the loss of federal stimulus funds in 2012. 

Top Jobs Act.  The Governor is proposing legislation to establish a blueprint for the future of higher education in Virginia’s four-year and two-year institutions.  The bill proposes incentives to increase state enrollment as well as retention and graduation rates; promote more degrees in science, technology, engineering, math and health care; and to utilize university facilities on a 12-month basis.  In addition, the bill outlines a new funding mechanism which will be further defined by the work of an advisory group over the next year. 

$50 million in new state funding for higher education.  The Governor has proposed to put $50 million dollars into higher education as a down payment on the plan outlined in the Top Jobs Act.  A significant amount of this money would be used for financial aid.  The remaining money would be distributed on the basis of competitive grants to further the goals set forth in this act. 

Massey Cancer CenterThe Governor has put $5 million into the budget to fund research at the Massey Cancer Center.  This money will be used to enhance the statewide clinical trial network and expand research efforts. Massey is seeking to attain the National Cancer Center’s highest ranking as a “Comprehensive Center”.  Public funding is crucial to this effort.

VRS and ORP changes.  The introduced budget seeks to decrease the unfunded liabilities of the Virginia Retirement System by requiring employee contributions to the system.  Currently, the state pays both the employer and employee share of contributions to the VRS system for those employees hired before July 1, 2010.  The budget bill proposes that such employees will now be treated like employees hired after July 1, 2010, in that they also will be required to make a 5% contribution to the retirement fund.  An increase in salary of 3% is proposed to mitigate this loss but the result is still a net salary reduction of about 2% for employees.  A contingent bonus of another 2% is possible if certain revenue benchmarks are reached in the coming fiscal year.  Employees who participate in ORP would see the employer contribution rate reduced from 10.4 to 8.5 percent, but would not be required to contribute to the total.

VCU Parking Lot.  The budget bill contains a payment to VCU of $3.3 million in exchange for the transfer of the current VCU parking lot located on East Broad Street to the Commonwealth.  The ownership of the property would then be transferred to the Slave Trail Commission of the City of Richmond for the purpose of creating a use of the property in line with its history. 

General Classroom BuildingVCU continues to advocate for the bond financing necessary to construct a new general classroom building which would house the School of Social Work among other programs.  Whether the project is financed depends on the level of debt capacity, if any, which is deemed available for such projects. 

Medicaid/Indigent Care Funding.  Last year’s budget bill included significant cuts to providers of Medicaid services.  An effort will be made to reverse such cuts in line with the availability of new revenue that was not anticipated last year. 

The School of Medicine.  The School of Medicine Education Building is on track for completion in Fiscal Year 2012.   VCU has submitted a budget amendment seeking $12 million in funding for equipment for the new School of Medicine.

Government Relations staff will monitor countless other anticipated legislative proposals, including in-state/out-of-state student population mix, guns on campus, Certificate of Public Need (COPN), healthcare reform and mental health.

If you have questions, contact Mark Rubin (merubin@vcu.edu) or Mark Smith (mesmith@vcu.edu). Our office phone number is: 804-828-1235.

 

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