Wednesday, March 05, 2003

A Welcome Change Of Tune

Remember last year during the Income Tax Wars we heard the constant refrain from our colleges and universities that money had to keep flowing in or they would have to start cutting classes and teachers? It was all part of the doom-n-gloom scenario that Jimmy Naifeh and Don Sundquist encouraged to try to scare Tennesseans into an income tax.

Now comes this story, via the Commercial Appeal that, surprise, surprise, cuts can be made after all. Forty-five million dollars in cuts.
Regents spokesman Mary Morgan said her 180,000-student system of universities, two-year colleges and technical schools will leave vacant positions open, cut travel, defer maintenance on building and equipment, and reduce supply and equipment purchases.

"We were successful in minimizing the damage to our core mission of instruction and to our students," Chancellor Charles Manning said.

Sylvia Davis, UT vice president for budget and finance, said her system's five campuses also will seek cuts that will not interfere with students getting an education.

"We've been asking campuses to make any effort they could to slow expenditures," she said. "It's nothing earth-shattering, but it saves money in the short term."
They said it couldn't be done, and yet here they are doing it. Phil Bredesen's dead-serious quest continues to produce surprising results. Maybe he'll make this work after all.

Hold that keyboard, SouthKnoxBubba! I'm surprised by what's going on in Nashville and its farflung tentacles, but this is only the run-up to the budget plan. Bredesen is making me proud (and surprised) by actually doing what so many of us have wanted to see done. But his budget still has to be produced.

Then it has to go to the Legislature. Those folks have been strangely quiet of late, mostly focusing on the lottery and the scholarships it is hoped to produce. That has worried me from the first announcement of cuts. Once Bredesen's budget lands there, the real fun begins. And whether or not it survives in any recognisable form is an open question.

As for Bredesen, I'm offically announcing I'm in the "skeptically optimistic" category now, upgraded from "cautiously pessimistic." I think that means the color changes from burnt umber to teal. But when it comes to the Senators and Representatives in Nashville, I have no hope whatsoever. Deep space black is their color.

That will be the real test for Bredesen and his cuts. We'll see what happens then.

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