USG Chancellor Enthusiastic About Budget Requests

Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia expressed enthusiasm for Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget proposal that would restore funding for the system’s Board of Regents at a House subcommittee meeting Wednesday morning.

Years of cutbacks coupled with increased enrollment numbers have created challenges for the university system, including a backlog of renovation and state-funded infrastructure projects, Huckaby said.

USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby

USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby

“The last several – three or four – years have been a real challenge for a lot of us,” he said.

However, Huckaby praised Deal’s proposed funding increases for the university system and the board of regents.

“The recommendation from the governor will begin to hopefully build back a level of funding that will reflect the enrollment growth of the university system,” Huckaby said. “That money is very, very important to us.”

In addition to the $95 million slated to cover the costs of record enrollment growth, the budget proposes $4.23 million to increase the number of health professionals through an expansion of the state’s residency training programs. Five million dollars would be allocated for cancer research at Georgia Health Sciences University.

Deal’s proposed budget would also allocate $235 million in bonds for new capital projects and major repairs and renovations, according to the fiscal year 2013 budget report.

However, members of the House Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee questioned Huckaby and the Board of Regents treasurer, John Brown, over a newly reinstated category of requests called small-cap projects – those costing less than five million dollars.

Brown defended Huckaby’s decision to re-include the category into the regent’s original request to the governor.

“A few years ago, we used to have small cap projects that were under $5 million that gave some flexibility because oftentimes you had some small projects trying to compete with these 30 or 40 million dollar projects,” Brown said.

Although Brown said an additional $100 million would help eliminate the pipeline of capital projects, he also said that Deal’s budget would provide funds for four of the six Board of Regents originally requested projects, including sites at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, Valdosta State University and the Georgia Health Sciences University.

Lawmakers also questioned Brown on the need for additional residency programs when the state already offers similar programs at other hospitals.

Brown said that those programs were inadequate because they could only accept three to four more doctors maximum while additional programs would grant access to grant money for a wider range of hospitals.

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