Even though nearly five months have lapsed since the end of this year's legislative session, $86.1 million that lawmakers approved to bolster the Board of Regents' fledgling budget is still stuck in the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund. According to sources close to the transfer process, a technical glitch is keeping the money at bay. While lawmakers passed legislation (HB 881) earlier this year to transfer $86.1 million from the state's general fund to the Board of Regents for higher education, it's questionable whether there's sufficient language in that or any other measure moving the money from the Rainy Day Fund to the general fund. In short, there's a legal question as to whether half of the equation was overlooked and the appropriation language that was used is enough to trigger the transfer.
While legislative intent might be clear to those who worked closely on the deal, the state Treasurer's Office is taking care to sift through the issue. "We consider this a technical legislative appropriation matter that we are working to resolve quickly," says Deputy State Treasurer Jason Redmond. "Treasury has every intention of making sure Regents gets their money in a timely and proper manner." That also means that the Legislature's plans (as outlined in HB 720) to use the state's recent tax amnesty program, which raised more than $300 million, to replenish the Rainy Day Fund is on hold as well. After all, a fund that hasn't been tapped can't be replenished. — Jeremy Alford