Continuous updates on proposed budget cut to USF

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The Senate budget would slice $400 million from the state’s university system, including tens of millions of dollars from each university’s state funding, under the theory that the schools should instead draw on their reserves. But the plan takes the most from USF, and a related bill (SB 7100) holds back another $25 million until the university turns over all USF Polytechnic property to a newly-independent Florida Polytechnic University.

Keep checking back for continuous updates on this issue so critical to Tampa Bay.

12:24 p.m. – Rick Scott comes out in support of USF.

“We have a process, and the Board of Governors have set up a process to work through the Poly-Tech issue,” he told 10 News reporter Noah Pransky.  “I believe that’s a process we should continue to go through. That’s my goal, to go through that process.

“But I’ll continue to look at the budget. I don’t believe that any university should be harmed for the help of another university. The other thing I want to make sure is that if we’re going to have a 12th university, that we can afford a 12th university.

“So when I go through the budget, what I’m going to look for is what can we afford, because I don’t want to burden future governors and citizens of the state with something we cannot afford.”

12:16 p.m. – Tampa City Council opposes proposed USF cuts.

6:42 a.m. – Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio: “Every student at USF should thank Alexander for providing a valuable life lesson on how not to lead.”

6:09 a.m. – Editorial from the Tampa Tribune calls for the removal of JD Alexander from the Senate’s budget committee.


10:05 p.m. – John Romano thinks this whole affair is starting to feel like a misdirection play:

You have to assume budget committee chairman JD Alexander was anticipating blowback when he decided to sneak in a bill that sped up Polytechnic’s secession.

So, to divert attention from that fight, he turned in an outrageous funding plan that he knew would cause USF to mobilize all its forces in another direction.

Which probably means by the end of this showdown, USF officials will happily cut Polytechnic loose just to avoid insane funding cuts.

And Alexander will look like he was a compromise champion when, in reality, he will get what he wanted all along.

Now that’s a lesson USF students should take to heart.

9:29 p.m. – PolitiFact: Understanding the USF budget battle.

USF and Senate leaders are saying very different things about the 2012-13 budget proposal for USF. Here’s what you need to know.

The university and Senate counting the dollars differently. Senate leaders — who say the cuts are similar to cuts for other universities — include $35 million that would be earmarked for the new Florida Polytechnic University (now USF Polytechnic).

$79 million. That’s the size of the cut in funding to USF’s main campus in Tampa, university officials say. And those are the cuts that have created the most angst.

The House has a say. The House budget includes smaller cuts. The House and Senate would have to agree to any budget plan before it could go to Gov. Rick Scott.

7:22 p.m. – Pinellas County Commission joins fight to save USF.

6:12 p.m. – State Senate OKs’ budget with substantial cuts to USF. Developing…

4:10 p.m. – The Senate Budget Committee dropped controversial language that would have held back $25 million in funding for the University of South Florida until it handed over all the property of USF Polytechnic as part of an initiative to make the Lakeland campus independent reports the News Service of Florida. The budget conforming bill containing the change (SPB 7100) would still create an independent Florida Polytechnic University. But the change seemed to largely soothe Tampa Bay-area lawmakers who had sharply criticized withholding the money. “This shows democracy works,” said Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa.

2:52 p.m. – Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, spoke out harshly against the cuts at the committee meeting today. Sens. Paula Dockery and Mike Fasano, Republicans from Lakeland and New Port Richey, issued a joint statment yesterday opposing the cuts. Rep. Will Weatherford, R- Wesley Chapel, speaker designate, said he would not let the cuts happen. Now Rep. Janet Cruz, a Democrat also from Tampa, says it seems budget chair Sen. JD Alexander targeted USF in a “vindictive budget proposal.” Via The Buzz.

10:00 a.m. – @willweatherford: @USF  should not and will not be singled out for cuts in their budget.  Good news is that we have a bicameral Legislature.

9:25 a.m. – University of South Florida students have arrived at the Capitol, ready to protest Sen. JD Alexander’s proposed cuts to USF — which are larger than any other state university — before his 9 a.m. budget committee. They left campus at 3 a.m. on two shuttle buses. More from the Gradebook here.

7:58 a.m. – “There is no rationale for why USF is being targeted to bear a greater burden than any other state university, but as a significant economic driver in our community we cannot afford to sit back idly and watch this economic train wreck take place,” said Bob Rohrlack, president and chief operating officer of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

7:56 a.m. – Judy Genshaft said she met with more than 20 members of the House, Senate and representatives of the governor’s office. She didn’t meet with Alexander or Gov. Rick Scott.

7:54 a.m. – University of South Florida students will be arriving by the busload to protest the Senate’s recommendations to cut the school’s funding more than any other state university. Budget chairman Sen. JD Alexander stirred up serious controversy with the cut recommendations. They were revealed days after a bill was slipped into the budget to kick-start Alexander’s pet project to create the 12th university out of the USF Polytechnic branch campus in Lakeland. Via The Buzz.

6:38 a.m. – Proposed budget cut to USF stirring opposition.

Tuesday – Editorial from the Tampa Bay Times: “USF in the crosshairs”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.