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USF's Budget Deal: It Could Have Been Worse

Mar 6, 2012

When USF President Judy Genshaft calls the budget deal "very, very, very good," you know it must be for the university.

Leaders in the Florida House and Senate have agreed on a budget that largely spares the University of South Florida from the disproportionate budget cuts proposed by the state Senate.

The price: agreeing to grant independence to USF Polytechnic, which will become Florida Polytechnic, the state's 12th university.

The incoming speaker, Will Weatherford of Pasco County, led the fight to restore USF's funding. His boss, House Speaker Dean Cannon, had questioned the wisdom of splitting off more universities.

But Senate budget chief JD Alexander really, really wanted the new Florida Polytechnic to happen. In return, USF gets most of what it wanted:

- The full $6 million it needs for the USF Pharmacy school

- $10 million of the estimated $16 million cost for USF to absorb USF Poly students

- Almost $7 million for a new heart institute

USF-Tampa still gets a $37 million cut, and USF-St. Petersburg is cut $5 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times. But that's a lot less than the $128 million loss threatened by the state Senate in February.

From the Times story:

"It's very, very, very good. I'm very pleased," USF president Judy Genshaft said. "I want to thank everyone in the community. It truly made a difference showing the strength of the University of South Florida."

Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, helped broker a deal that kept the pharmacy program's funding intact and strengthened language to make sure USF secured funding for current Lakeland students who earn their degrees from USF.

"The House held firm on that $6 million," Weatherford said. "It was hard, and we had to scramble, but we recognized without the total $6 million, the school's program was in jeopardy."

In addition, Weatherford was able to win an additional $6.9 million to create a cardiovascular institute at USF in partnership with the Pepin Heart and Vascular Institute at University Community Hospital. While it was also a top priority of USF's board of trustees, the state's Board of Governors had not recommended that it get financed this year.