Senator Glenn Hegar Commends Restoration of Community College Funding
The announcement by Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick to restore the community college health care benefits is a welcomed reversal of Governor Perry's earlier veto. The agreement also makes community colleges eligible for a $100 million incentive fund previously open only to four-year colleges, in addition to the creation of a task force that will make recommendations to the legislature on how future incentive funds should be distributed.
Inasmuch as community colleges play a vital role in the education of our state's youth, this announcement to continue funding for health insurance of community college employees saved the day for our students, taxpayers and community college employees. This agreement was reached so quickly thanks, in part, to the onslaught of protests from college officials, community leaders, and lawmakers following Governor Perry's veto of these funds last June.
The governor still maintains that his veto was justified, and it is unlikely that the reason behind his change of mind will be discerned, but a key reason could be that the veto's impact on community colleges was felt across the state. The cost to community colleges in Senate District 18 alone was over $6 million, forcing many colleges to begin plans to cut programs, increase tuition, or consider property tax increases to cover lost funding.
"This announcement is a tremendous benefit to our community college students and the taxpayers of Senate District 18. Without the restoration of these vetoed funds, I firmly believe that our students, taxpayers, and community colleges would have been irreparably harmed in both the short term and in the long term," said Senator Hegar. "Our community colleges were facing the possibility of raising tuition, increasing taxes and / or eliminating valuable staff to make up for their lack of financial support. These were not options I supported, and I commend everyone's hard work, determination and efforts to enable the reversal of this veto and restore this well deserved funding."
For now, the release of the $154 million appropriation comes both as a relief and as a reminder that Texas community colleges traditionally struggle to maintain the necessary funding that is anything but permanent. "Community colleges serve a segment of the population that can ill afford rising college costs and I look forward to working with my colleagues next session to make certain this does not happen again," concluded Senator Hegar.
Senator Hegar is currently serving his first term in the Texas Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives. He is a 6th generation Texan, and earns a living farming rice and corn on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800s. The Hegars reside in Katy, Texas.