Senate Republicans pass budget

Shawntaye Hopkins

A Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led House have less than two weeks to compromise on a state budget.

The Senate passed a budget proposal Monday that includes money to renovate Western’s science buildings, but does not include money for the Kentucky Academy of Math and Science.

All 22 Senate Republicans voted for the budget proposal, while the 16 Senate Democrats declined to vote.

The House rejected the Senate’s proposal.

The House passed its budget bill on March 9. The vote was 64-36, with all House Republicans voting against the bill.

A conference committee of House and Senate members has been formed and is expected to create one budget by the legislature’s April 15 deadline.

“I don’t have any insight into what they will do,” said Robbin Taylor, assistant to the president for governmental relations. “My hope is that we can maintain the science renovation.”

The Senate proposed $27 million to renovate Science and Technology Hall, the north and center wings of Thompson Complex, Hardin Planetarium and Snell Hall.

But $33 million is needed for the project, Taylor said.

Snell Hall will be left out of the renovations if Western only gets $27 million from the state, President Gary Ransdell said.

Sen. Richie Sanders, R-Franklin, said there was not enough money to fund the Academy of Math and Science.

Ransdell said university officials will try to get the academy funding put back in through the conference committee.

The House budget bill proposed that funding for all the capital projects in Fletcher’s proposal be delayed to 2006.

Sen. Walter Blevins Jr., D-West Liberty, said several of the university projects that were not funded by the Senate may be pushed back into the final budget by House Democrats.

Western has not received any additional operating money from the House or Senate budget bills.

Both houses agreed to keep the $5 million proposed by Fletcher and the House to compensate higher education in 2005-06 for enrollment growth.

The House also included a bill in their proposal that would allow universities to use money in their own budgets for housing and auxiliary projects, but the Senate dropped it.

The House and Senate also proposed enough money for the Governor’s Scholars Program to admit 1,000 students this year, said Aris Cedeno, academic chair of the program.

The five-week program for high school juniors has admitted 1,000 students each year since 2001, he said. Fletcher proposed enough money for the program to admit 850 students.

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