One thing appears certain, though–cuts are coming.
The latest development is that HB1 and SB1, the House and Senate versions of the state’s general appropriations bill, are both headed to a conference committee made up of senators and representatives in order to reconcile lingering differences between the two pieces of legislation.
When it was introduced in January, SB1 called for drastic reductions in university funding, proposing cuts as deep as 37 percent, or $26 million, for Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
The latest incarnation of SB1 proposes only a 10-percent cut in state funding, or about $6.8 million.
University President Steven Tallant warned faculty and staff in January of the impending cuts, but he said then that he only anticipated reductions that at most could run as deep as 10 percent. He said at the time that he was prepared to deal with cuts as steep as 4 percent, but that any more would likely mean lean times ahead. A hiring freeze was one step he announced immediately.
Tallant and many other university presidents were seemingly caught off guard by the shear size of SB1’s initial proposed cuts, which zeroed out funding for special items, money earmarked specifically for programs such as the Citrus Center, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management.
“I believe eliminating state funding to these programs would damage our reputation and the public trust we have developed over many years,” Tallant told senators during testimony earlier this year.
When introduced in February, the House appropriations bill actually proposed increasing funding, albeit only marginally, at most state universities.
Now, legislators appear to favor shifting funds that would have gone to bigger schools—SB1 originally proposed increasing funding at Texas A&M College Station—and instead spreading that money across smaller schools in order to reduce the need for more drastic cuts in places such as Kingsville, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi.
The current legislative session ends May 29. TAMUK officials may not know the fate of university finances through 2019 until then.