Universities Threatened with $400 Million in Cuts

Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida are being asked to return $400 million in reserve funds to help balance the state's budget.

USF faces an additional $25 million loss because it finds itself in a political battle with the powerful Senate budget chairman over the creation of a twelfth university in the state's system.

State Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander was the driving force behind the University of South Florida's Lakeland Poly Tech campus. Now he want the campus to be independent, and he is using the state budget to force the split.

The current budget plan would penalize USF $25 million if it tries to block the divorce. Alexander has been called a bully for his tactics.

“There has been more bullying by USF’s leadership than anything I would even think about doing, and I haven’t done it,” he said.

Alexander contends USF president Judy Genshaft has tried to block the creation of an independent Lakeland university at every step.

“She’s told numerous folks that she just plans to wait me out and not move forward with it,” he said.

Alexander’s plan also asks USF, UF and FSU to return $400 million in reserves to the state. But instead of asking for a check from the schools, the money is being cut from funding to the institutions, meaning a $79 million cut to USF.

USF President Genshaft was in the Capitol early Tuesday, meeting with key House budget writers.

“Well, we have a lot of advocates and good friends in the legislature, all over, and it's our hope that we can work with them to make a difference for the University of South Florida," she said.

Many senators don’t want to talk about a twelfth university. One of them is Sen. Evelyn Lynn, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Funding Committee.

“I have no position because we don’t know what the cuts are yet,” she said.

Alexander’s committee is slated to spend all day Wednesday working on the budget.

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