Legislature passes $22.5b budget

By Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

A $22.5 billion state budget that includes $392.5 million for the UMass system gained final legislative approval on June 16. The spending plan covers fiscal year 2005, which begins July 1.

The package, which passed 38-1 in the Senate and 150-0 in the House, essentially level-funds the maintenance appropriation for the five-campus system, but adds another $54.67 million for pay raises for faculty and staff.

The budget also factors in mid-year supplemental appropriations to the University that provided $10 million in additional funds as well as $26 million for negotiated salary increases.

Together, the mid-year supplmental funding and additional monies represent a $65 million increase over the University appropriation approved a year ago.

The final budget approved this week also contains $1.7 million for Commonwealth College and continues a pilot program that allows the Amherst campus to retain tuition from out-of-state students with the state paying fringe benefit costs for employees paid from tuition retention accounts.

The overall package contains level funding for the community college and state college systems as well as the state scholarship program, which includes an earmark of $8.7 million for the UMass system.

Gov. Mitt Romney now has 10 days to sign the measure, issue vetoes or offer changes.