Norman’s amendments set up USF showdown in Senate on Thursday

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The Senate is likely headed for a Thursday showdown over funding for the University of South Florida, with a vote looming on a package of amendments that would bring cuts to the institution down to a level that Tampa-area lawmakers consider fair, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

The changes — filed by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa — would boost the budget of the main USF campus in Tampa by more than $55.3 million from where the university’s budget currently stands under the Senate proposal. Norman’s amendments would use almost $27 million in Public Education Capital Outlay funding to help shore up the university and would shift $6 million in cuts to other USF campuses.

The amendments would also restore $22 million in funding for the pharmacy school and staffing to USF. Those funds would remain with the newly-independent Florida Polytechnic University under the Senate plan.

The budget being considered by the upper chamber includes $400 million in cuts for the State University System, which Senate leaders say can be covered by drawing on universities’ reserves.

Opponents of those cuts say state law requires universities to keep a certain level of reserves and argue that drawing on those accounts would punish schools that have done a good job of using state money.

The largest of those cuts would hit USF, which has been embroiled in a fight with Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, over the potential independence of its Lakeland campus, USF Polytechnic, which would become Florida Polytechnic under a separate bill being considered with the budget.

Alexander has said the cuts were divvied up based on the size of a university’s reserves — not based on enrollment, which has traditionally been used to guide most funding decisions for higher education.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.