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Legislative Report to Campus

As the legislative session closed this week, once again Governor O’Malley and the General Assembly found ways to uphold the affordability and quality of Maryland public higher education. We are grateful for their continued support. 

With the state facing both a structural deficit and declining revenues, it had to make significant cuts to balance next year’s budget. Therefore, the state reduced the University System of Maryland’s base operating budget by $6.7M. USM will also transfer $31M in fund balances to the state. Our campus will absorb its share of these reductions. 

However, our leaders in Annapolis also mitigated the pain, honored previous commitments, and protected our priorities. Even with money tight next year, we will see important benefits campus-wide: 

(1) As in previous years, tuition for in-state undergraduates is expected to rise 3%, keeping UMD more affordable than most of our peers. 

(2) Merit and cost-of-living salary increases for faculty and staff are protected: an average merit increase of 2.5% this July 1, and a cost-of-living increase of 2% next January 1. 

(3) Additional funding that enables us to educate hundreds of additional STEM majors will continue next year. 

(4) Additional funding to support our joint research and tech commercialization with the University of Maryland, Baltimore—our “MPower” collaboration—will also continue next year. 

With respect to capital funding, state leaders kept our most critical building projects on track and even expanded:

(1) A science wing consisting of chemistry teaching labs will be added to the St. John Learning and Teaching Center, which will break ground this spring. Constructing this science wing as an integral part of the St. John complex saves money and accelerates the availability of these urgently needed labs. This substantial expansion is the brainchild of Provost Mary Ann Rankin, who has been a fearless advocate for enhancing our facilities in the life sciences. 

(2) H. J. Patterson will be renovated to re-open a damaged wing. 

(3) Construction will begin on schedule for the state-of-the art Bioengineering Building. 

(4) There will be a new STEM building at Shady Grove. It will support biotechnology and bioscience teaching and translational research along the I-270 corridor. 

(5) Pre-authorized seed funding the following year for a sports performance and research facility. 

(6) Funding that will enable us to catch up on deferred maintenance. More than one-third of our buildings are more than 40 years old. 

Under the leadership of Governor O’Malley, Maryland is now the #1 entrepreneurial state in the nation, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Maryland is #2 in the nation for the economic impact of its research activities, according to the National Science Foundation. Building on our state’s competitive edge, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch jointly introduced bills that connect research and innovation with commerce. 

The General Assembly approved “E-nnovation” legislation that leverages private philanthropy with matching public dollars to create up to $100M for endowed faculty chairs in STEM fields. This will enable us to attract more top STEM talent to UMD. It approved the “Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise” (RISE) legislation that provides tax credits that will incentivize private development around universities and federal laboratories. This will increase our ability to attract more retail and community enhancements around College Park to revitalize it as a top university town. 

The General Assembly also enacted a new minimum wage of $10.10, phased in over a four-year period. When this full rate is reached, it will benefit over 5,000 employees at UMD. The vast majority will be undergraduate students working on campus, since most other employees’ pay is above the new minimum wage floor. The estimated added cost to the University will be about $12M annually. 

All in all, a tough budget season turned out far better than we could have imagined back in January. I want to thank Chancellor Kirwan, USM staff, UMD administrators and staff, as well all the UMD students who lobbied in Annapolis for all their hard work to strengthen higher education in our state. 

And, I want to thank the Governor and legislative leaders in Annapolis for recognizing and supporting UMD’s educational, research, and economic impact on the state. With them behind us, we can shine. 

Wallace D. Loh President, University of Maryland