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Senate votes to restore a total of $46 million back to USF

Senators on Thursday subtracted $46 million from the University of South Florida's much-disputed total $78 million budget cut. The university still stands to lose about $50 million under the Senate’s spending plan, but USF sees that as a more fair cut when compared to other universities.

That decision came amid debate on the Senate’s budget, which continues. Still unresolved: whether USF’s branch campus in Lakeland should immediately split off into the state’s 12th university.

That’s a priority for Senate budget chairman JD Alexander, and the subject of a conforming bill slipped into the budget a couple weeks ago.

The budget cut issue was expected to spark a showdown on the Senate floor. But because of behind-the-scenes negotiations late Wednesday night, much of the contention was already ironed out by the time senators took it up.

Leading the charge was Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, who worked out a deal with Alexander to give USF back $3 million for its pharmacy school that would have gone with USF Poly in a split and $10 million for USF Poly faculty and staff USF would have to absorb.

It was a compromise on amendments Norman filed the day before that would give USF $6 million for pharmacy and $16 million for faculty. A third amendment filed by Norman, and signed off by six other senators, was taken up on the floor without any changes. That’s the one that gives USF back about $33 million, and spreads the cut across the school's four campuses.

USF Tampa's total cut is now $45.5 million, down from $78 million. Each of the school's branch campuses, which under the original Senate plan did not share in that total cut, are now cut by the same amount as the university system's smallest school, New College, which saw its funding cut by 10.6 percent. USF St. Petersburg is now cut $2.21 million, USF Sarasota-Manatee is cut $1.18 percent, and USF Polytechnic is cut $2.94 million.