The Student Government Association (SGA) went toe-to-toe with the Texas government in Austin during UTSA Day at the Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 14.
“SGA is one of several UTSA organizations going to the capitol,” SGA Legislative Director Rebecca Conejo said, “We’re going during the 85th Legislature because we as UTSA students, alumni, staff and faculty want to share the strides being made at UTSA and explain to our state senators and representatives how they can continue to support us in that success.”
Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the general appropriations bill, was scheduled for public hearing on the day of SGA’s visit, as well as the Monday prior. SGA has a vested interest in the bill because of how it affects UTSA and its community.
SB 1 contains a budget maneuver that allocates money to universities outside the standard funding formulas, better known as “special items.”
“UTSA Special Items provide benefits for San Antonio and beyond. From the Small Business Development Center to the Texas Pre-Engineering Program to the Institute of Texan Cultures, SB1 could curb the success of UTSA as we grow,” Conejo explained.
UTSA called for the Texas Legislature to maintain UTSA’s existing special items and to support UTSA’s request for two new special items: Cyber and Cloud Computing and College Completion UTSA.
UTSA highlighted additional legislative priorities, including an increase in state investment in Texas Grants, funding support for Hazlewood exemptions and the restoration of funding cuts in UTSA and Texas research programs.
A number of Texas universities, not including UTSA, have stated they would even have to lay off faculty if special items were cut.
“The sky really is going to fall if you pass this bill,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.
State representatives have reassured universities with statements supporting restoration of some special items.
The Senate’s chief budget writer, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), noted at least some of the special items would be restored during a kickoff to what would become a day-long hearing with many university presidents and chancellors.
The Senate filed their first version of the proposed state budget for 2018-19 which included almost no special items despite the House’s version maintaining the status quo.
“The trip will consist of us speaking with different officials and their teams to explain UTSA’s stance of differing financial programming,” SGA senator Joe Sanders said. “This is my first time going on the trip. I’m extremely excited to see what happens.”
The 85th Legislature will have its first opportunity to speak with UTSA’s students during UTSA Day at the Capitol.
“We hope that the students will have a meaningful time engaging and interacting with state lawmakers, and that our state lawmakers will have a better understanding of Roadrunner Nation from having met with us,” Conejo said.
The SGA and other members of the UTSA community are calling for representation in these matters to ensure Texas representatives and senators understand and support the Roadrunner mission for success.