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Volume 7, Issue 4                                    University of Houston

Budget surplus a late Christmas present for UH?

After making do with state budget cuts dealt in the wake of a $9.9 billion shortfall in 2003, signs of a possible revenue surplus this year may portend better days for the stateís universities and their students.

The state revenue estimate, released by Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn this week, shows the state in the black, with about $6.4 billion more in tax and fee revenues than we did at this time in 2003.

"Our economy has picked up. While we're not going at the blistering pace of the go-go days of the 1990s, we are going to have good, steady growth," Strayhorn said in a Houston Chronicle report.

Gov. Rick Perry has asked state agencies to calculate their budgets with a 5 percent cut in state funds, which comes on top of the 10 percent cut he ordered in 2003. 

Itís clear that conditions are improving -- just not as quickly as one would hope. 

When the shortfall trickled down to UH, the University had to cut its budget by $54 million. Most of the cuts were in turn made up for with tuition and fee increases, thanks in large part to deregulated tuition. 

This year, tuition increases are almost guaranteed, but maybe not to the extent we saw in the last two years. 

Whether the surplus will last, even with some cuts, is a subject of debate. 

Advocates of social services for the poor estimate that the revenue could be entirely absorbed if funding is restored to levels before the shortfall; that is, if the state wants to keep a workable budget, it needs to find more revenue.

As much as one would like to regard the budget surplus as a Christmas blessing, itís more than likely that itís only the promise that maybe weíll get a better present in 2007.

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