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UMass president lobbies to restore money to budget

New UMass president Martin T. Meehan wants money restored to the state budget that was cut out by Governor Charlie Baker.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

With one Beacon Hill victory under his belt, Martin T. Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts, is going for another: lobbying state lawmakers to restore money the governor vetoed from the university budget and pay for collectively bargained raises to staff and professors that have gone unfunded for a year.

Two weeks ago, Meehan succeeded in negotiating a historic change with the governor and lawmakers to improve the way the university bills families, a change all sides have hailed as a win for transparency.

But in the same move, Governor Charlie Baker sliced $5.2 million from the university’s piece of the state pie to $526 million, saying it should find savings elsewhere.


Now Meehan is flexing his political skills to recoup those dollars, as well as score an extra $10.9 million for the contracts. The House could take up both matters next week.

Meanwhile, some in the State House said if UMass succeeds in its quest, it should lower costs to students, which are set to rise next year by between 6 and 8 percent, depending on the campus.

Meehan has said without the vetoed money and extra for contracts, UMass will struggle to come out in the black, and couldn’t necessarily afford to also cut fees.

UMass’s tuition and fees did not rise the past two years, part of a deal negotiated by the former university president that expired this year.

The five-campus UMass system is subject to a double standard, he said, because state universities and community colleges raise fees every year without complaint from Beacon Hill.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep fees as low as we can, but I’m tired of UMass being used in a political game over fees,” he said Friday.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, who has been an ally of UMass, said Friday that the vetoed dollars should be restored and the contracts funded.


But he also said UMass should reduce fees if it gets any extra money.

“There definitely should be an adjustment,” said Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat.

Education Secretary James Peyser, a UMass board member, last month voted against the UMass fee increase, and Baker has criticized it publicly. On Friday, Peyser declined to comment on whether UMass should have the vetoed money restored.

The Baker administration pointed out that even with the governor’s veto, UMass will receive a budget increase of $15 million, or 3 percent, over last year after the midyear budget cut.

In addition, university trustees this year set fees based on an earlier version of the state budget that pegged UMass’s state aid at the same level it is now, after the veto, officials said.

UMass chairman Victor Woolridge said Friday that the university needs every dollar it can get. The system is looking for ways to save, he said, but certain costs can’t be cut, such as interest on debt.

“Those are not things that can be wiped away,” he said.

It is uncertain whether the Legislature might override the UMass veto next week, or add money to a supplemental budget to fund the negotiated raises.

The raises were negotiated under the previous UMass president and governor and have become the subject of disagreement over whether UMass should get additional money to fund them.

The House Ways and Means Committee is reviewing both items.


Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.