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Dewhurst makes plea for community colleges solution

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made a public plea Wednesday for
state leaders to find a way to reallocate $154 million in vetoed funds for
community college health insurance.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the funds last month and community
college officials from all over the state have responded with anger, saying
they’ll have to consider tuition increases, local tax increases or restricting

Perry rejected the money because of a provision that would
have made health insurance allocations to college employees based on their

“I want this issue addressed now … before the impact
of these funding cuts are felt,” Dewhurst wrote in a Wednesday letter to
senators. Lawmakers were not able to agree on a solution to college funding in
the legislative session that ended in May and they’re not scheduled to meet again
until 2009.

A legislative budget panel that includes Perry, Dewhurst and
House Speaker Tom Craddick can decide to reallocate the funds with a majority
vote and agreement from Perry, but no meeting is scheduled.

“The governor welcomes input from lawmakers and has
already begun working with the Higher Education Coordinating Board and
community college leaders … to work toward a solution to meet the needs of
our colleges,” said Perry spokesman Krista Moody. “With that said
Governor Perry has continuously proposed additional funding for community
colleges, however, he wants to ensure that solutions are proposed within the
spirit of the law.”

Dewhurst said he’ll designate a working group of state
senators, staff from Perry’s office and community college representatives to
find a solution.

– Associated Press

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