Appropriations Committee taking up University System Budget

The House Appropriations Committee is starting up its budget talks on the education portion of House Bill 2 on Friday. HB 2 is the official name for the state’s general fund budget bill.

The Montana Board of Regents is meeting in Helena this week and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian briefed the board Thursday on legislative proceedings.

Commissioner Christian says he feels pretty good about the Montana University System budget ‘piece’ that has made its way to the full budget committee after first being approved by an education budget subcommittee. Although, he says “obviously there are some things on our list that didn’t get moved out (of the subcommittee) that he wished would have,” citing funding for new universal enrollment software and money for new campus veterans services.

Those two items are part of a list of over 15 amendments proposed to HB 2 asking for more education funds. Amendments to the budget will be discussed next week in committee. Christian says no amendments have been proposed to remove money from what’s allocated to the University already.

A top goal of the board of regents this budget cycle is to freeze tuition for the next two years for in-state students.The Regents have passed a resolution saying they will do that if the Legislature does two big things:

  • Approve extra money included in the budget to pay for the cost of inflation.
  • Approve pay increases for state employees, which includes the University System.

Christian says both of those two things seems to be moving forward, although he acknowledges there’s is still a lot of discussion left to go–especially on state employee pay.

The University System is also hoping for the passage of a major bonding bill which would allocate $100 million for building projects, mostly on state colleges.

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