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Alexander tries last-ditch effort to lobby Scott on Polytech bill

A bill that would help create the state’s 12th public university is now in the hands of Governor Rick Scott. As Sascha Cordner reports, the bill’s most influential backer made a trip to Tallahassee to petition the Governor to approve his bill.

Senate Budget chief JD Alexander says he feels good about the discussion he had with Governor Rick Scott Thursday regarding his bill, Senate Bill 1994.

Alexander has been a huge advocate of splitting University of South Florida from its Polytechnic Campus, thus creating the state’s next public university.

So, this year, the Lakeland Republican sponsored a bill that would help move the process along and fund the Lakeland Campus with 33-million dollars, should it become independent from USF. Alexander says there’s a big need for a new stand-alone tech-focused university.

“Unfortunately, the large system we have is not producing as many focused graduates as we’d like to have and I think we have an opportunity to change that in a fairly expeditious focused way.”

And, that’s one of the arguments Alexander made to the Governor, who has been advocating for a bigger technical focus in education.

Scott himself said before the meeting, that he liked that Polytech focused on Science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM degrees.

However, there are also areas of concern that Scott says he wants to be sure about before making his decision:

“Now we’ve got to make sure that we can afford it, afford a 12th university. We can’t’ do anything to harm one of our great universities, like the University of South Florida. So, you’ve got to look at the benefits of doing it and the cost of doing it, and see if our budget can afford it.”

But, Senator Alexander says he and other supporters tried to allay the Governor’s fears, and say the state can’t do without this 12th university.

“When you look at the kind of magnification and expansion of our economy that tech graduates do, and create, I’m not sure that we can afford not have it, and when you’re talking about relatively small amounts of money, compared to $2.3 billion that we’re spending on Universities, it’s a relatively small amount.”

Alexander was also joined by several other supporters in his meeting with Scott, including ousted chancellor of USF’s Polytechnic Campus Marshall Goodman. He was fired last year by USF’s President Judy Genshaft, over what some believe was a dispute regarding their opposing views on making Polytech a stand-alone university.

The Governor has until April 21st to decide whether to sign the Polytech bill into law.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.