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Jun 15, 2012 8:58 AM by AP

Former La. lawmaker leaves higher education board

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A member of Louisiana's top higher education board left the job Friday, saying repeated budget cuts to colleges have left him too frustrated and cynical to continue in the position.

Vic Stelly, a former lawmaker from Lake Charles, sent an email to members of the Board of Regents announcing his decision a day earlier. He exited the board, which oversees public higher education spending and management, six months before his term was set to end in December.

"I can't see how being frustrated and negative for six more months is to anyone's benefit," Stelly wrote to his colleagues and Regents staff.

The Jindal administration and lawmakers have stripped $427 million in state funding from higher education since 2008, as state tax revenue has fallen below expectations and budget shortfalls have repeatedly appeared. That includes $66 million in cuts for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Tuition increases on students have offset some, but not all, of the gap.

Stelly was vocal on the Regents board about his unhappiness with the cuts and the rising costs for students.

"He expressed his frustration often on how important higher education is to the growth of a state and to economic development in a state and felt cutting higher education was somewhat akin to shooting yourself in the foot," said Larry Tremblay, a deputy commissioner with the Regents office, who said he was surprised by Stelly's resignation.

When the most recent budget plan was passed by lawmakers this month, higher education leaders praised the outcome for sparing schools even deeper cuts that had been considered by legislators. But Stelly disagreed with the reaction.

"Having seen five years of state higher ed funding cuts totaling almost a half a million dollars (and no end in sight) I'm tired of saying, 'It could have been worse.' I, therefore, have submitted my resignation from the Board of Regents," Stelly wrote.

The former lawmaker also submitted a one-sentence resignation letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will choose his successor to the Regents board.

Stelly, a registered independent, served four terms in the state House from 1988 to 2004, with time spent on the budget and education committees. He was appointed to the Regents board in 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

 

 

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