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Budget issues focus of new legislative session

by Richard Veilleux - February 13, 2006

Gov. M. Jodi Rell had no surprises for UConn officials when she opened the 2006 legislative session last Wednesday with a wide-ranging state of the state speech at the state Capitol.

“Given that this is the second year of the biennial budget adopted last June, the governor’s recommendations to stay with the status quo was not unanticipated,” said Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer. “Still, an increase in our operating budget would be appropriate, in light of the increasing number of students enrolling in the University. Financial support to provide the classes our students need is a top priority.”

The University will advocate for funding amounts in fiscal 2007 ncessary to support, at a minimum, service levels equivalent to those provided this fiscal year. For the Storrs-based budget, that would require a $4.6 million increase above what the General Assembly enacted and what the governor recommended, and an additional $1 million for the Health Center.

Besides communicating with legislators to convince them of UConn’s budgetary needs, University officials also will try to convince lawmakers to reverse changes to the state’s matching grant program that were adopted last year. The program is intended to help public colleges and universities grow their endowments. Last year’s changes include revising the state match ratio from 1:2 to 1:4. More significantly, any state match is now predicated on the state’s Rainy Day fund reaching a level equivalent to 10 percent of the state budget.

“This highly unlikely occurrence essentially puts the program on ice,” says Aronson.

Officials also will be involved with any legislation that may be proposed to implement changes from the governor’s commission that reviewed the UConn 2000 program.

“The Governor’s Commission on UConn Review and Accountability issued a series of recommendations in September   related to the UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn programs and we’ve implemented, or are in the process of implementing, almost all of them,” said Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, vice president and chief operating officer.

“We would like to continue that effort, and at the same time communicate to legislators the progress we are making.”

Much of that communication will fall to Gail Bysiewicz, who began working in UConn’s governmental relations office Jan. 31, and Joann Lombardo, who assumed a similar role at the Health Center the same day.

Bysiewicz was a government relations representative at UConn before, serving as assistant director of the office for five years before leading the government relations effort for the Connecticut State University System. Before coming to UConn in 1994, she worked for then-U.S. Rep. Sam Gejdenson.

Lombardo served as legislative representative for the Office of Policy and Management during the Weicker administration. More recently, she has been employed by the Gilbane Buildings Co. of New Haven, as manager of education programs for United Technologies Corp., and as director of public affairs for the MetroHartford Chamber of Commerce.

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