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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Don Sundquist’s proposed budget for 1998-99 is good for public higher education and the University of Tennessee, UT President Joe Johnson said Tuesday.

 Johnson said the governor’s recommendations to the legislature include significant funding for construction and maintenance, an increase in operating funds, and a pay raise proposal.

 “This is the best capital outlay budget we have seen in a long time,” Johnson said. “And the governor’s recommendation to increase operating funds for all public higher education by 2 percent or approximately $20 million is a real step forward.

 “This is a significant contrast to the budget cut we had this time last year. We are grateful to the governor for recognizing our needs and for moving forward to address them.”

 The increase in operating funds would be the first in seven years, Johnson said.

 “The budget recommendations are consistent with the governor’s creation of the Council on Excellence in Higher Education and his previous statements about being interested in higher education. I’m delighted to see us moving in this direction.”

 The governor’s pay raise proposal — 1 percent effective Jan. 1, 1999, with another 1 percent increase possible if state revenues permit — recognizes the important contributions of UT faculty and staff, Johnson said.

 Johnson also said he appreciated the governor’s decision to ask the legislature for:

— A special $3 million allocation, to be distributed by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, for teaching and research equipment.

 — A $23 million appropriation, which matches $7 million in federal funds, for construction of a $30 million facility on the agricultural campus in Knoxville for plant sciences teaching and research.

 — A $7.6 million allocation for a headquarters for the Joint Institute for Neutron Science, a project of UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to encourage corporate partnerships with the proposed $1.3 billion Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge.

 — A 2 percent increase in funding for UT’s non-formula units.

The money for capital maintenance — more than $8 million for UT — is important, Johnson said, because it allows the university to keep old buildings in operating condition.

 Of the $20 million in additional operating funds for higher education, approximately $1.9 million would go to UT-Chattanooga and a smaller amount to UT-Martin, Johnson said.

 Contact: Dr. Joe Johnson (423-974-2241)