COMMITTEE CONSIDERS NEW FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE HEALTHCARE
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education heard testimony Tuesday on the impact of Gov. Rick Perry's veto of $154 million in funds to pay for employee health benefits at the state's community colleges. The Governor vetoed that portion of the budget because he said that the state was footing the bill for the health care of employees whose wages are paid out of local funds. The state is obligated to pay benefits for employees that are paid from state funds, but Perry said that community college officials were paying for locally-paid employee benefits with state funds. The committee explored ways to restore the funding cuts that have left community colleges scrambling to find a way to pay for employee health insurance.
Dr. Rey Garcia, President of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, says the funding problem is broader than this most recent funding cut. He says that the state contribution to community colleges continues to decrease, and this current funding problem is symptomatic of that under-funded system. Roberto Zarate, Chair of the Alamo Community College Board of Trustees in San Antonio, said this veto will cost his institution $12.1 million. To cope with this loss, Zarate said, his college might have to charge for free services, like tutoring, or cut back on other free programs, like free instruction and credit for qualifying high school students. He, along with many other state community college administrators, asked the committee to find a way to restore the funding that has already been cut and relieve the pressure on their beleaguered institutions.