An agreement between a triumvirate of the state's top leaders is breaching an impasse that divided Gov. Rick Perry and community colleges across Texas in June.

Perry, who line-item vetoed roughly $154 million in health care funding for the colleges, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick pledged to restore the funds recently. That restoration will relieve employees of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, its chancellor said last week. "I am pleased a consensus was reached on appropriate health benefit funding,"" Perry said in a press release sent last week. In exchange, Perry, who enraged community college leaders by erasing the funds from the 2008-09 budget, is asking the colleges not to raise taxes or increase tuition to offset the lost monies from the veto.

At the time of the veto, Perry accused the colleges of falsifying appropriation requests for the employees' health care, although the colleges adamantly denied any financial wrongdoing. ""We ... frankly find your attack on community colleges ... offensive,"" then-chancellor of NHMCCD John Pickelman wrote in a June letter to Perry.

The accusation fueled a bitter feud that played out in the opinion pages of local newspapers across the state. Calling community colleges ""the backbone of our higher education system,"" Dewhurst said he wanted to avoid ""putting any extra financial burden on students or taxpayers."" The NHMCCD, one of the largest community college districts in the state, with five colleges and more than 46,000 students, would have lost $10 million in funding - or about 5 percent of the district's budget - had the veto gone into effect. Dr. Richard Carpenter, who took the helm of the NHMCCD in August after Pickelman retired, said the district's 1,610 employees who are paid with state funds ""are breathing a little easier."" Some of those employees' dependents and retirees are also are covered under the state's health care insurance. ""We have to give a lot of credit to Lt. Gov.

Dewhurst and our local legislative delegation, who really stood with us in this,"" Carpenter said. As part of the agreement, Perry, Dewhurst and Craddick are developing a special committee to discuss the possible implementation of an incentive program that rewards institutions of higher education ""for the students they produce rather than just those they enroll,"" Perry said. Those suggestions might be considered by the 81st Legislature in 2009.

" Posted by Tamborrel Bulox Team on
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