EDINBURG— The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine is set to receive at least $55.3 million in state funding under an agreement reached in the early morning hours on Sunday between House and Senate conferees in charge of negotiating a two year state spending plan.
Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa confirmed Monday that the conferees— five senators, including himself, and five House representatives— voted Sunday at around 1:30 a.m. on a compromise between the House and Senate budgets putting the new school of medicine less than $15 million away from its original petition of $70 million.
The proposed Senate budget had the school initially funded at about $12 million and went up to just under $25 million, while the House budget was funding it at about $55 million.
“It took us all session long to keep on increasing it,” Hinojosa said. “The biggest challenge was the method of financing. What source of revenue do we use to finance the budget?”
University officials, including President Guy Bailey and Vice President of Governmental and Community Relations Veronica Gonzales, have been traveling on a weekly basis to Austin to advocate for the school of medicine.
Although they expected cuts all along, the message was that in order to fund all necessary programs for the infant school and continue the momentum, the funding needed to be at about $60 million, about the same as they were awarded last session. The agreed number gets much closer to that than what had been offered by the Senate.
“We really want to thank our legislative delegation for their hard work,” Bailey said on Monday. “We’ve come a long way during the session… We started with nothing and we are still short, but until I know the final amount I won’t know exactly where we stand… one of our challenges will be to work to make up that difference.”
As far as the university as a whole, the numbers are still not ready to be disclosed, he said, adding the budget is currently being reviewed even though it’s been voted on.
Funding for UTRGV in general could change depending on special item funding, which will change this year for all higher education institutions. But in the case of the school of medicine the number is not likely to decrease, if it changes, Hinojosa said it would only go up.
A rider, or clause, was also negatively impacting Health Related Institutions, a designation acquired by UTRGV for the first time this year which secures additional funding for these institutions. This clause threatened to do away with the negotiating power of the HRI’s by limiting what they could charge private insurance companies, thus decreasing the potential revenue. The clause was also modified and is in the process of being finalized.
“It is a cost-containment type of rider, but we modified that because there was a lot of push back from medical schools and health related institutions,” Hinojosa said.
The budget is now being reviewed and will be printed and taken before the full Senate and House for a vote this week, he said, so that it can then be placed before Gov. Greg Abbot for final approval.
“Hopefully by Wednesday we’ll have everything, if not sooner,” Hinojosa said. “All of this is being printed with speed and we’ll go over it one more time… all of the numbers have to align and all the riders have to align and they have to also conform on the agreements we made between the House and the Senate.”