TXEXplainer: Budget Amendments Target UT System

The ongoing legislative backlash against the UT System Board of Regents for what lawmakers call “micromanagement” hit the Texas House floor Thursday, as representatives engaged in a day-long debate over the state budget. We take a look at the amendments that will affect UT’s regents.

TXEXplainer: Budget Amendments Target UT System

Three amendments to the state budget were passed Thursday. The changes take aim at the UT System and its Board of Regents, limiting state funds available to the board and the System. Rep. Jim Pitts, chair of the House budget committee, led a movement to amend the budget with the goal of sending a signal to the regents.

Amendment #2
Author: Pitts (R-Waxahachie)
Vote: 113 Yeas, 34 Nays
What it does: Prevents regents from using money appropriated to the System to investigate individual universities or make records requests, and adds new reporting requirements for System investigations. In recent weeks, regents have come under scrutiny for requesting massive amounts of data from UT-Austin. Critics say the requests burden the University and are part of an effort to discredit and ultimately remove UT President Bill Powers.

Amendment #3
Authors: Pitts, Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
Vote: 114 Yeas, 31 Nays
What it does: Prohibits regents from using state money for travel or lodging arrangements. The amendment also removes $100,000 from System funds and moves it to the Office of the Attorney General to use for auditing and open government. Legislators, including Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, have questioned the regents’ divided vote to contract an outside group to investigate the Law School Foundation, despite previous audits. A majority of Senators wrote to UT System chairman Gene Powell, encouraging UT to conduct the audit through the Attorney General’s office, if the regents deemed the audit necessary. Senators made it clear they did not support a further review of the Foundation.

Amendment #4
Author: Pitts
Vote: 130 Yeas, 14 Nays
What it does: Sends UT-Austin’s share of the Available University Fund, a state investment that helps fund UT and the Texas A&M University System, directly to UT. The amendment strikes a clause that would give the System the ability to use AUF monies for System administration, bypassing the board and ensuring UT-Austin’s appropriations are only used for salaries, construction, and other expenses on the flagship campus.

Editor’s note: The full budget was passed around 9:50 p.m. Thursday night.

Photo courtesy clio1789 via Flickr Creative Commons.


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