Less than a year ago the University of Idaho began tackling important issues in the Idaho Legislature.
Although the priorities of the university are fairly similar to the prior legislative session, UI Government Affairs Director Joe Stegner said they are just as critical to address.
With the next legislative session just around the corner, Stegner plans to lobby for funds to increase UI employee salaries and to expand other ongoing programs, including the WWAMI.
“One of the things that we want out of state government is funding for the university,” Stegner said, who has been in the position for the past four years. “We get a significant amount of our money from the tax dollars that the state takes in, so what we really want is that money.”
Stegner said the state draws money from a general fund and distributes a majority of the funds to higher education and K-12 education. Around 300 million dollars is reserved for higher education institutions, and Stegner said the university hopes to receive a portion of that pool.
“We”ve been getting money from them (Idaho Legislature) for as long as we”ve existed,” Stegner said. “And from time to time we ask for funding of more specific things like maintenance of buildings or specific programs.”
Stegner said the university is also working to encourage enrollment at the university.
“The state of Idaho wants to have a more educated work force,” Stegner said. “Recruitment and retention are important, not only for the university, but for the state also so we have expanded that effort significantly over the last few years and need legislature to help fund it.”
Stegner said legislature usually gives UI about 80 million dollars of money from the general fund which the university uses for programs such as Complete College Idaho (CCI).
“There is a significant request this year for enhancement for what we generally call CCI,” Stegner said. “CCI is more of an umbrella name for a number of specific efforts going on across the state to increase the number of students going to college.”
ASUI Lobbyist Nate Fisher will also be in Boise this spring to lobby for a statewide medical amnesty policy, Stegner said.
Yet, Stegner said UI administration has not taken a position on medical amnesty and will not be advocating for it at this legislative session.
“(Medical amnesty) tends to be a policy issue that the legislature will make,” Stegner said. “It”s just not one of our top priorities.”
The differences between this legislative session and the last one comes down to the specific areas that the university will be requesting more funding for, Stegner said.
Stegner said the university will ask for more funding for the WWAMI medical program, which is operated through the University of Washington.
“The state of Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and Montana are all small to the point where they don”t have their own medical school in the state,” Stegner said. “The University of Washington allows a number of students from each state to participate in their medical education program without having to go to Seattle.”
Stegner said the Legislature has been paying the out of state tuition for these students so they can receive their medical education in Idaho.
Stegner said UI will also push to increase research funding for the College of Agriculture and the College of Natural Resources.
“The University of Idaho thinks these are all important in some way or we wouldn”t be asking for the money,” Stegner said. “We watch these efforts very closely so we can hopefully become more competitive in the higher education community.”
Jessica Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaycgeek