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Norman gaining signatures on USF funding amendment

Sen. Jim Norman has filed three amendments to Sen. JD Alexander's budget proposal that he says will give the University of South Florida a more equitable share of budget cuts across the university system.

Norman, R-Tampa, said he would file the amendments if yesterday's meeting between Alexander and USF President Judy Genshaft did not leave the president with "certainty" that her university would not suffer disproportionately. The Senate's $78 million cut to USF, from a total $400 million cut to the university system, was seen by some as vindictive on Alexander's part. The Senate budget chairman is at the same time pushing to split USF's branch campus in Lakeland off into the state's 12th university. His proposed funding cut to the school does not take into account the extra costs associated with that split.

Norman's amendments would do the following: Restore $6 million to USF for its pharmacy program, which previously went through USF Polytechnic's budget; Restore $16 million in costs for faculty and staff that USF will have to absorb in a split (Norman leaves $2 million funded by a phosphate research fund at the new Florida Polytechnic); and dock USF's overall $78 million cut down to a total of $50 million, spread across the campuses rather than cutting just from USF Tampa.

Under Norman's plan, USF's main campus would be cut $45 million and each of its three branch campuses in St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and the Polytechnic in Lakeland, would get cuts of about $2 million. That leaves the cut to the main university at about 26 percent and each of the smaller branches about 10 percent. That, Norman says, is fair. It leaves USF Tampa with a cut closer to what UF and FSU got, and the smaller campuses with cuts equal to the smallest school in the university system, New College. 

That last part of the plan, for the overall funding cut, was still awaiting exact language before the amendment is complete. But the other two amendments, giving money back for the pharmacy school and faculty, are ready to be filed and have been signed off by six other senators: Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Dennis Jones, R-Seminole; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; and Ronda Storms, R-Valrico.

The amendments will be offered for votes Thursday when the full Senate takes up the proposed $70.8 billion budget.

Norman's amendments do not address a separate conforming bill slipped into the budget that would immediately separate USF Poly from the USF system and make it into the state's 12th university. Last week, at Norman's urging, Alexander dropped an idea to hold $25 million of USF's money in contingency pending that separation.