CU will seek tobacco funds to shore up HSC budget


January 11, 2007

By Marianne Goodland

Silver & Gold Record reporter

CU officials will try a different tack this year to get funding to shore up the Health Sciences Center’s budget, by seeking tobacco settlement moneys that have been used for the past several years to cover shortfalls in the state budget.

CU President Hank Brown told S&GR on Tuesday that the University will support a bill that is to be sponsored by House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder) and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Golden) to allocate tobacco settlement funds for HSC general operations.

Colorado was part of a multi-state tobacco settlement reached in 1999 with the four largest tobacco companies. At the time of the settlement, the state expected to receive about $2.5 billion over 25 years.

Legislation passed in 2000 directed 4 percent of the settlement funds to a nurse home-visitor program operated by the School of Medicine’s Center for Family and Child Health. In addition, grant programs for research on tobacco-related diseases, tobacco-related mental health issues and general substance abuse were administered by the University. By 2004, the state’s budget crisis forced legislators to allocate the tobacco settlement money to cover shortfalls in the budget.

According to Brown, the Madden-Fitz-Gerald bill would specifically allocate a portion of the tobacco settlement money to “health-care related programs” that do not currently receive settlement dollars. Brown said HSC operations could fall into that category.

Brown said CU officials also will support legislation to grant College Opportunity Fund stipends to military personnel attending state public colleges or universitites. Currently, military personnel are granted in-state tuition rates, regardless of their residency status, but higher ed institutions do not receive COF money to help cover the educational costs for those students.

In addition, Brown said, a University-supported bill to be sponsored by Sen. Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins) and Rep. Jack Pommer (D-Boulder) would establish a state fund to match grants for major federal research projects. Brown explained that the fund would help CU, Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines, and would be available to match federal research grants when a state match is required.

The University also has on its legislative agenda bills on loan repayment, teacher preparation, and research bonding, the president said.

Brown also briefly discussed a “Colorado plan” for financing higher education. “The track we’re on is not sustainable; there isn’t enough money in the system to fund higher education,” he said. The new plan would involve all higher ed institutions working to establish measurable goals, missions and performance standards that Coloradans would support. The plan would be taken to the citizens of Colorado, Brown said, to garner their support for funding higher education. A ballot initiative could eventually come out of that process, he said, adding, “We need to reconnect with Colorado citizens” on higher education.

In other legislative news, CU officials announced this week that the CU office of state and federal government relations has been reorganized, a move prompted in part by the naming of CU policy analyst Todd Saliman as the new director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting for Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration.

Tanya Kelly-Bowry, who has been associate vice president for state and federal government relations, will go to a half-time position as a policy analyst, in effect taking over the responsibilities Saliman had. However, Vice President for Administration and Chief of Staff Leonard Dinegar said this week that Kelly-Bowry is still the University’s chief lobbyist, and will continue as the “face” of the University at the state Capitol, responsible for lobbying for CU on the budget and key higher ed legislation. Kelly-Bowry’s salary in the half-time position will be $90,000 per year; she previously earned $163,000 as associate vice president. Saliman was paid $60,000 per year as a part-time policy analyst for the University.

Former CU lobbyist Hollie Stevenson has been hired as director of the office of state and federal gopvernment relations, at a salary of $115,000 per year, Dinegar said this week. Stevenson, who has been at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, will engage in “limited lobbying” and will primarily be responsible for internal duties for the department, Dinegar said.