Valley lawmaker vows to fight for UTB, UTPA merger funding

Texas State Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) said it's possibly the most important piece of legislation he's ever worked on and quite possibly the best thing to happen in the Rio Grande Valley in the past 50 years.

"$100 million, new dollars, into the creation of a Valley medical school, and into a merging of UT Pan American, UT Brownsville and the Regional Academic Health Center (in Harlingen)," Oliveira said.

The Brownsville-based lawmaker said the UT Board of Regents and Chancellor Francisco Cigerroa approved the plan Thursday.

If approved by legislators, the merger would generate more higher education opportunities, resources, economic development and jobs.

But most importantly, he said, it would allow this new university to tap into PUF, or the Permanent University Fund.

It's a fund which only a select number of Texas universities, like UT Austin and Texas A&M are part of.

PUF money comes from oil and gas taxes, and there is currently $9.1 billion in the fund.

Oliveira said having these funds available, will speed up the process of having a full-fledge medical school in the Valley.

"It's been a dream for many of us to have a medical school, Oliveira said. But it's not only become a dream, I think it's become a necessity. Uniting these institutions and sharing what they have, and add to what they have would be fantastic."

If approved by lawmakers, $10 million per year will go towards this university, for 10 years.

Oliveira said this type of investment will make the medical community an even stronger economic engine for the Valley, and will take the university to new heights.

"What I believe will be a super university, will eventually be a research institution as well," Oliveira said.

One suggested name for the university is, the University of Texas for the Americas in the Rio Grande Valley.