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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Legislature approves budgets for library renovations, staff pay increases

By Jake Parkinson

Walking out of the State Capitol Complex yesterday, U Vice President Fred Esplin was all smiles and handshakes.

Busy congratulating his colleagues for the potentially large increase in state funds for the U and the rest of Utah’s higher-education system, Esplin knew the news would be a reason to grin for many on campus.

Moments earlier, two legislative committees approved budgets appropriating money for faculty and staff pay increases, new building operation expenses, funds for fuel and power bills and improvements to the Marriott Library.

Library funding

Four years ago, U administrators approached the Legislature open-handed, begging for money to make seismic renovations to the Marriott Library.

They pled their case before lawmakers, explaining that an earthquake could destroy much of the library and its resources and documents.

Their plea was struck down without much debate two years in a row.

Then last year, the project was listed as the No. 2 capital facilities priority for all of higher education, but yet again didn’t get noticed.

This year, the U appears on mark to get a $48.5 million check from the Legislature to cover the project.

“Finally,” U lobbyist Nancy Lyon said after the committee agreed to send the funding priorities onto executive appropriations.

“It’s been hanging on the list for years, but finally we are getting a lot of positive feedback,” Lyon said.

A nod from Capital Facilities and Administrative Services Appropriations Subcommittee is more than positive feedback, and it’s more than a step in the right direction.

In fact, U administrators said they would be shocked if the project went unfunded for a fifth year.

Higher education’s base budget

After an hour of monotonous discussion, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, let out a shrill, “Yea!”

Both of his hands went up and he shook them like he was waving at his daughter on a float in a Fourth-of-July parade.

The Higher Education Appropriations Sub-Committee had just passed a prioritized budget for the next year that included $7 million for salary increases, $15 million for fuel and electricity costs and $3.5 million for the state’s nursing and engineering initiatives.

There’s much more.

Not as much as Higher Education Commissioner Richard Kendell would like, but much more than there has been in the past.

Paul Brinkman, the U’s vice president of budget and planning resources called the tentative budget the “best in years,” meaning the best since the economic nosedive that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The committee passed a similar budget request last week that listed the request of more than $904 million for the Utah System of Higher Education.

Senate leaders sent the request back to the committee to rank priorities for funding.

Brinkman said listing priorities was a responsible reaction by lawmakers and the committee, which in the end took Commissioner Kendell’s suggestion to heart.

Executive Appropriations Committee is expected to take a closer look at both the library and the funding request budgets Wednesday.

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