Board of Regents authorizes contingency funding authority to UA President Jim Johnsen
The University of Alaska Board of Regents received a budget update today and granted UA President Jim Johnsen the authority to cover certain core university operating expenses beginning July 1 if there is no state approved budget by then.
Johnsen’s update to the Regents referenced the fact that the Alaska Legislature passed a $322 million budget for the university – $5 million less than its current funding level. He described the extensive set of legislative hearings and the strong public, student, and business community support that resulted in the Legislature’s budget for the university.
The budget is now on the Governor’s desk for consideration. His budget proposal for the university included a $134 million reduction. The governor has line-item veto authority and could reduce the university’s funding by a substantial amount.
Johnsen said the huge uncertainty of the final state appropriation level—with a cut ranging from $5 million (2 percent) to $134 million (41 percent)—makes planning extremely difficult with only two weeks left until the start of the fiscal year. It’s possible that the governor will follow through with a substantial reduction, Johnsen told the regents, and that even a $10 million cut, along with increased operating expenses, could lead to program and campus-level reductions that could interrupt students’ education.
“We have provided the governor with a lot of input about the university and we appreciate his support for remedying our long time land grant deficit,” Johnsen said. “We’ve given him a compelling rationale for our budget including information regarding the large cost reductions we already have made, our fundraising progress, our cost comparisons with other states, as well as the pivotal role the university plays in the lives of our students and the economic wellbeing of the state.”
“We simply cannot manage substantial cuts without impact on the university and the state. The threat is serious,” he said. “We can talk about program reductions, but our obligation to students does not go away just because we eliminate a program.”
Once a budget is signed by the governor the university will return to the Regents with a specific funding plan for its approval. The board has tentatively planned to meet again on June 28 to approve a budget or they will call an emergency meeting to take action once the budget is final.