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Bulls Budget Battle rivals JD Alexander, Judy Genshaft of USF to meet face to face in fight to #SaveUSF

10:26 AM, Feb 20, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Fla. -- The two powerhouses in the Bulls Budget Battle are set to meet face-to-face Monday.

One one side of the table: University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft.

On the other: State Senator JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales), creator of the plan to take away nearly 60 percent of USF's state funding.

The slugfest between these two goes back several months; they are not fans of each other.

Last year, JD Alexander launched a crusade. He wants to take one of USF's four campuses -- USF Polytechnic in Lakeland -- and move it out of the USF system.

It would become Florida Polytechnic University, Florida's twelfth independent state school.

USF has fought against that move and against Alexander, saying having the USF umbrella gives the Lakeland school tons of advantages in funding, marketing, and accreditation.

Monday, these two rivals will sit down face to face.

Critics say Alexander has used "checkbook blackmail" against USF to get his way in this fight. He proposed a budget that originally whacked almost 60 percent of the funding for USF's Tampa campus.

Since then, thanks to an uproar from WTSP 10 News viewers and other folks joining the WTSP #SaveUSF campaign, the proposed cuts have been modified slightly, to guarantee USF $25 million in funding that originally would have been held hostage by the state.

Still, USF faces losing an enormous $103 million under the Senate's plan, a cut deeper than any other state university when compared to the schools' overall budgets.

10 News was the only station at a weekend meeting between Genshaft and Bay Area state senators Jim Norman (R-Tampa) and Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa).

They are key people in this budget battle, and they say they are determined to make sure Monday's meeting with Alexander will have an outcome people in Tampa Bay can tolerate.

"We're getting to that bottom line, that we can assure our community that USF is treated fairly," Norman told 10 News reporter Ashley Porter after the local leaders' meeting.

"We anticipate a good meeting, and we're optimistic that the outcome will be favorable to the University of South Florida and the people of this community," Joyner agreed.

10 News has spoken with Alexander several times since this budget battle broke out to get his side of the argument.

He has said USF can handle the cuts because the school has large cash reserves. The university says much of those reserves are already set aside to pay for upcoming expenses.

Plus, the USF system can't move money from one campus reserve fund to another. So the Senate cuts, which are aimed at the Tampa campus, can't be covered by money from USF St. Petersburg or USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Reporter Noah Pransky of the 10 News Investigators will be traveling to Tallahassee for Monday's meeting.

Meanwhile, a local rally organized under the name "Support USF Protest, Street-Corner Style" was canceled due to rain on Friday.

It's been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 7 at the corner of 56th Street and Fowler Avenue.

You can join the conversation to Save USF on Twitter with the #SaveUSF hashtag, the #SaveUSF Facebook page, and Weigh in on the proposed cuts and alternatives, too.


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