UNM pursues 2005 legislative priorities
By Carlos Rey Romero
Although the university receives only 19 percent of its overall funding from the state of New Mexico, it can be argued that this is the most crucial funding because it covers our teaching mission and general operations. With that understanding, UNM will work with other four-year institutions in the state to secure the bottom line – full formula workload funding, a 4 percent compensation increase for faculty and staff and a minimal tuition credit.
UNM is also embarking on an aggressive agenda to take to the 2005 New Mexico Legislature, highlighted by the following major priorities adopted by the Board of Regents:
1) Secure improved funding for the Health Sciences Center. Growing uncompensated care, coupled with flat clinical revenues, have resulted in HSC being unable to give compensation increases to medical faculty in two of the past three years. This is a major cause for concern in the highly competitive physician job market. UNM hopes to open a dialogue with state government officials to identify a way to address the impact of uncompensated care and the ability of HSC to build its academic programs or growing clinical revenues.
2) Secure a long-term revenue stream to address the deteriorating infrastructure of UNM and all higher education in New Mexico. The cost of higher ed infrastructure remediation statewide is almost $1.5 billion. New Mexico could generate that kind of revenue through three mechanisms: cash funding, debt financing and public-private partnerships. President Caldera has engaged the other university presidents, the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force and the Governor’s Finance Council to propose a ten-year solution that would require approval by New Mexico voters.
3) Centennial Engineering Complex construction phase one. This proposal seeks a $21 million capital outlay request and is the number one capital priority of the university. Construction of the Centennial Engineering Complex is critical to executing the state’s economic development strategy of creating a knowledge-based economy in New Mexico through university-led research activities.
4) Creation of a combined bachelor of arts and medical doctor degree program and expanding the School of Medicine. UNM seeks an initial appropriation of $805,800 to support a program designed to increase enrollment of rural New Mexico students in the UNM School of Medicine and increase SOM’s current first-year enrollment from the current 75 students to 100 students.
5) Create state support for research. External research dollars generated by the state’s research universities are in excess of $350 million in the current fiscal years and are a major source of employment in the state. State support for research activities – an appropriation based on a calculation of 1 percent of total sponsored research – could assist with grant writing, provide “seed” money required for certain grant applications, or enhance research-related activities with the goal of increasing research dollars coming into the state.
Additional priorities UNM will pursue include continued funding for the National LambdaRail Project, which provides a national scale infrastructure for research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications; additional Law School library funding; funding to begin the planning and installation of compact storage shelves at University Libraries; and athletics capital funding that includes the basketball practice facility, HVAC for the “Tow” Diehm weight room, improvements to the women’s softball complex and track resurfacing.
UNM’s legislative team will regularly inform and update the campus community regarding the session via email and a special legislative priorities Web site.
Carlos Rey Romero is director of UNM Government Relations.