President’s Update: April 2014
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Dear Friend of Indiana University,
Every two years, the Indiana legislature holds a “budget session” between January and April at which the state budget for the next two financial years is developed and sent to the governor for his approval. In alternate years, a “short session” is held from January to March in which, though further budget issues are rarely addressed, a range of very important policy and other matters are considered.
The recently completed short session of the Indiana General Assembly was noteworthy for the amount of substantive business conducted in the 10 weeks of the session. Over 800 bills were considered, a significant number of which affected IU. We are very grateful to the General Assembly for the positive action taken on many of these.
By virtually any account, the university fared well during this session, highlighted by our strong leadership on the highest-profile issue to come before the General Assembly this session: the constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between one man and one woman. IU was the first public university to oppose the measure, which as originally written would not only have codified a level of intolerance into the state’s constitution but also would have posed a serious threat to the university’s ability to continue to offer domestic partner benefits and would have had a chilling effect on our efforts to recruit top talent to IU.
IU’s leadership, which also included Vice President and General Counsel Jackie Simmons giving highly effective testimony regarding the potential impact on IU’s domestic partner benefits program, was instrumental in changes being made to the bill that effectively restart the process for the issue being sent to the voters. The bill now must be passed in identical form by a future General Assembly, and the earliest it could be presented to the voters is in the 2016 general election. While we are pleased in the changes made in the bill during this session, the university will continue its work to defeat this proposed amendment to the state’s constitution.
IU’s state government relations team, with the able support of Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities Tom Morrison, also actively worked on passage of legislation that will provide the university with greater flexibility to pursue routine construction projects without legislative hearings, as well as to proactively make energy-saving repairs to our facilities. This flexibility is important to the university’s ongoing efforts to improve our facilities across the state, as outlined in my update last month, with minimal delay and is a much-needed show of confidence on the part of the legislature in IU's ability to manage state resources appropriately.
Donors to IU and other state universities were the recipients of some good news out of the session, as a provision to eliminate the state tax credit for donations to colleges and universities was stricken from a bill that also reduced business personal property and corporate tax rates. Gene Tempel, dean of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, testified persuasively that tax credits encourage charitable giving to universities and help form a lifelong habit of philanthropy on the part of many donors. Additionally, bills related to the possession of firearms on campus and the status of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus were resolved to the university’s satisfaction.
With this year’s session behind us, the university already is turning its attention toward the 2015 budget session, which will commence another two-year budget and tuition-setting cycle for the university. We are hopeful that the gains made during last year’s budget session—which manifested themselves in greater state appropriations that played a major role in our ability to keep tuition increases to their lowest level in 40 years—will continue, but the upcoming session is certain to offer its own set of challenges.
Foremost among those challenges is the continued unsteady gains in the state’s economy. While unemployment has fallen dramatically in the past year, state tax revenues have been below forecast each of the past two quarters, which is worrisome. This lower-than-expected revenue already has led to a decision by the state to withhold 2 percent of its fiscal 2014 appropriation to IU and other state universities—about a $9 million reduction for IU. We remain hopeful that state revenues will increase over the rest of the year; but we will continue to take a conservative approach toward the university’s finances as we begin our work on the next biennial budget cycle.
I want to thank the members of the Indiana General Assembly, and especially those who represent the home districts of IU campuses across the state, for their hard work during the recently completed session. Likewise, we appreciate the collaborative and constructive environment that has been the hallmark of the last two legislative sessions and the strong support that has been shown for higher education and the IU mission.
Finally, I want to offer my sincere gratitude to the outstanding state government relations team at IU, led by Vice President Mike Sample and Associate Vice President Jeff Linder, and including John Grew and Rebecca Polcz, for their hard and highly effective work on behalf of the university. Their tireless efforts continue to benefit IU—and by extension the state of Indiana—in ways big and small.
Thanks are also due to Executive Vice President John Applegate and Vice President Bill Stephan and their offices for their contributions on a number of the important issues during the session. I also want to extend my thanks to the leadership of the University Faculty Council, Herb Terry and Jack Windsor, and members of the faculty councils on a number for IU campuses for their greatly appreciated work and support on a number of the academically related issues that the General Assembly considered this session.
And, as always, thanks to all our alumni and friends for your continued support of Indiana University.
Michael A. McRobbie