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Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 9:33 pm

UTB President Juliet Garcia got a welcome surprise Tuesday when she heard Gov. Rick Perry urge the Texas Legislature to approve access to the Permanent University Fund for the yet-unnamed new University of Texas school in the Rio

Grande Valley.

“We didn’t know that was going to happen,” said Garcia, who is in Austin. “We are very pleased. I know the chancellor has been working hard and the regents have been working hard to brief the governor and his staff on how important it is.”

During his seventh State of the State address Tuesday, Perry called on the legislature to approve a bill granting access for the University of Texas at Brownsville and UT-Pan American in Edinburg to the state’s PUF, which was established to use a portion of state oil and gas revenues to fund higher education in the state. At the moment, UTB and UTPA are the only schools in the UT System that can’t access the fund.

“Today, the students of South Texas are able to stay closer to home to earn their college degrees. This area of the state is critical to our state’s future, and our investment in the children of South Texas will be returned a thousand-fold,” Perry said during his speech. “That’s why I’m calling for the Legislature to pass, by a two-thirds vote, a bill necessary to give South Texas access to the Permanent University Fund.”

Legislators from the Rio Grande Valley were happy to hear the governor acknowledge the creation of the proposed new university —a merger of UTB and UTPA — in such a public forum.

“I want to thank Gov. Perry for recognizing how vitally important it is to invest in the people of South Texas. I remain committed to filing legislation to create a new PUF-eligible regional university spanning the lower Rio Grande Valley,” state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, said in a statement. “This is an opportunity Texas cannot afford to pass up. I whole-heartedly join the governor in calling on the rest of the House and Senate to support the creation of this new university and appreciate his encouragement.”

State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said he gave Perry a “solo-standing ovation,” when he heard the governor mention the future university in the Valley.

“To have his support will go a long way for us getting the two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate,” Oliveira said. “This will give us a lot of help if it’s also on his agenda.”

Perry’s support comes as students, faculty and administrators from both universities prepare to be at the state Capitol today to witness the introduction of a resolution in the House chamber supporting the union of the two universities.

mmontoya@

brownsvilleherald.com

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