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Eye On Boise

Another Otter initiative fails

The governor’s proposal to fund $15 million in new research grants through the Higher Education Research Council for research projects specifically aimed at economic development wasn’t even discussed as the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the budget for the state’s four-year colleges and universities this morning. All three proposals on the budget, which were hotly debated by committee members on other issues, set aside just $1.56 million for that purpose, rather than $15 million. There’s already money in the base budget for the HERC, so that brings the research grants for next year up to $3 million.

The issue that caused the scuffling in the joint committee was occupancy costs for new higher ed buildings. One proposal was to fund some; another was to fund more; a third was to fund none. Lawmakers split, and in the end, voted unanimously for the proposal to fund some. They agreed that they need a more firm policy in the future on funding occupancy costs for such buildings.

The budget that was approved sets the state funding for four-year colleges and universities next year at $264.2 million, an 8.4 percent increase from this year. Gov. Otter had called for spending $275.7 million, a 13.1 percent increase, but that included the one-time boost for research grants.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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