The General Assembly Session ended the "short session" as scheduled this year on, Feb. 24 despite lengthy debates on legislation dealing with major policy issues including transportation, energy re-regulation and eminent domain.
After unsuccessful attempts during last year’s session, an extended session into late June and a special session in September, the legislature approved a statewide transportation plan on the last day of the 2007 session. The legislature also passed the conference report with amendments to the 2006-2008 biennial budget, including a 4 percent pay increase for faculty and classified staff effective Nov. 25, 2007.
For higher education, the conference report allocated $15.3 million for base operating needs and 2006-2007 enrollment growth. In addition, the conferees set aside $7 million for a Tuition Moderation Incentive Fund which will provide additional operating support to institutions that do not raise tuition more than six percent for in-state undergraduates. Undergraduate financial aid received a boost of $13.7 million.
Virginia Tech received $750,000 in partial funding for 676 additional full time equivalent students enrolled this academic year and $900,000 for undergraduate student financial aid. The university is eligible for $1.3 million from the Tuition Moderation Incentive Fund if tuition increases for in-state undergraduates do not exceed six percent. The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors is scheduled to approve tuition rates at the March 26 meeting.
The conference report retained the capital funding provided in the Executive budget amendments for higher education as well as recommended funding for additional cost overruns for projects already under construction. For Virginia Tech, this included funding for the Hazardous Waste Facility and project supplements for the Building Construction Lab, ICTAS I and Cowgill HVAC. The conference committee also approved a non-general fund appropriation for the Shultz Hall renovation project.
Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station received $461,000 for seven additional positions as part of the Commonwealth Staffing Initiative.
A few research projects at the university received funding in the conference report. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, along with colleges of Natural Resources and Engineering, will collaborate on a noise reduction study funded by the Virginia Transportation Research Council. Cooperative Extension will conduct a study on the plight of Virginia’s beekeepers. The Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, of which Virginia Tech is a founding member, received $1.5 million to implement research and develop Virginia’s marine renewable energy resources.
Out of the 3,000 bills introduced during the session only about 1,500 bills were sent to the Governor’s desk for review and signature. A reconvened session is scheduled for April 3, when the legislature will act on the Governor’s amendments or vetoes of legislation and the conference report on the budget.