On Feb. 19, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate announced their budget proposals for the 2006-2008 biennium. Budget conferees were then appointed to develop a final budget; however, they failed to reach consensus by the last day of the regular 60-day session on March 11 due to disagreements over transportation funding.

Both the House and Senate budgets provided increased funding for base adequacy and enrollment growth. An unprecedented research initiative proposed by Gov. Mark Warner has also received bi-partisan support. The research initiative provides over $200 million for the 2006-2008 biennium, including funds for specific research projects, capital construction for research facilities, equipment, and graduate student financial aid.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger was instrumental in building the case for direct state investment in academic research and development. Some of the governor’s proposals were based on work of the Steering Committee on Research Capabilities and Centers of Excellence for the Governor’s Higher Education Summit in May, 2003. Steger chaired the steering committee.

For Virginia Tech, the introduced budget provided one time research funding of $9 million for the Host-Pathogen-Environment-Interaction program and $8.7 million for Advanced Biomaterials and Nanotechnology. The House recommendation includes $19.5 million for research funding for the university for the biennium, while the Senate provides $11.8 with the intention of continuing the funding for the first year of the next biennium.

Both House and Senate recognized the importance of graduate students to the research initiative and maintained the proposed $3 million commitment to additional graduate aid for the Virginia Tech.

Cooperative Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station received additional resources in both House and Senate budgets for the Commonwealth Staffing Initiative, $1 million for the biennium on the House side, and $1.6 million on the Senate. Additional funding is also provided for equipment in Agency 229.

Additionally, the House and Senate budgets provided for salary increases for both years of the biennium: a four percent salary increases for classified employees was proposed by both chambers, while a four percent pay increase for faculty was proposed in the House and a 3.65 percent (average) increase was recommended in the Senate budget for the first year. Further, both budgets create a reserve account setting aside funds to cover raises of two percent (House) and three percent (Senate) in the second year of the biennium.

Budget conferees have continued meeting since the regular session ended in mid-March; to date, the conferees cannot agree on either the amount to allocate for transportation spending or where the money should come from. On Monday, March 27 the members of the General Assembly return to Richmond for a special session called by Governor Kaine, though news reports indicate that little progress has been made in the negotiations so far.

For additional information, please contact Laura Fornash, associate director of government relations.

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