Budget boost, capital construction priorities for CU at 2014 Legislature

Session just underway expected to include campus-requested bills

Colorado lawmakers convened at the Capitol Wednesday for the start of the 2014 legislative session, which is expected to lead to a welcome increase in funding for the University of Colorado and other higher education institutions across the state.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s requested $100 million increase for higher education would mean $60 million in operating funds and $40 million in financial aid. CU’s share is expected to be $16.5 million.

The boost would return funding levels to a pre-recession baseline -- without accounting for inflation and enrollment increases in recent years. The governor’s proposal would tie the funding to a limit of 6 percent tuition increases in the next fiscal year for institutions.

“I’m encouraged by and appreciative of the governor’s efforts to minimize a tuition increase,” Board of Regents Chair Michael Carrigan told the Faculty Council in November. “It’s one side of the budget sheet. And it would be nice to take a year off from 5 percent to 9 percent tuition increases.”

CU’s Office of Government Relations, led by Vice President Tanya Kelly-Bowry, is at work supporting the governor’s budget request while also pursuing funding for CU’s top capital construction priorities. This year’s agenda also will include bills as requested by the campuses; details will be forthcoming throughout the four-month session.

Carrigan said he also expects CU to monitor the continued effort by the state’s community colleges to offer select four-year degrees, pursued for a time during last year’s session. He said he believes CU and other four-year institutions should be able to reach a compromise with community colleges on the matter.

This year at the Capitol, Democrats will hold majorities in the Senate (18-17) and House (37-28).

Other issues expected to spur debate and action at the General Assembly include K-12 finance, flood recovery and a revisitation of gun laws passed last year.