The Capitol Report

February 27, 2017

Miles Baker
Associate Vice President, Government Relations

This week, the Alaska State House will hold two hearings a day in an effort to complete its operating budget work by early next week. Budget subcommittees have finished their work, and began reporting their recommendations to the full House Finance Committee last week. Those subcommittee reports will continue today and tomorrow.

The subcommittee responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on the university’s operating budget for next year held its final meeting on Thursday afternoon. The committee’s report will be presented to the full committee today at 1:00 p.m. The committee is recommending $325 million in unrestricted general funds for the university. This is the same as the university’s current funding level, and consistent with the Governor’s request. However, it is still $16 million below the Board of Regents’ request of $341 million for FY18. Representative Adam Wool proposed an amendment that would have added $16 million to the budget and fully funded the regents’ request. However, the subcommittee’s chairman Representative Guttenberg, did not put the amendment forward for consideration.

The subcommittee added three sections of legislative intent language to our budget:

  • That the university reduce the number of athletic teams at UAA and UAF to the minimum required by the NCAA
  • That unrestricted general fund reductions or reallocations at the three main universities be no greater than those made at statewide administration
  • That athletics at UAA and UAF be funded equally, at the current UAF unrestricted general fund level for athletics

You can read the house subcommittee’s full report here. Watch the final house subcommittee meeting and its discussion on Rep Wool’s amendment here.

While this is just the first step in the legislature’s budget process, it becomes increasingly difficult to make changes to the budget as the process progresses. While the Senate is just beginning its own review of the budget, the Senate Majority has already indicated it intends to cut another 5 percent ($16.25 million) from the university’s budget, which will put us $32 million below the Board of Regents’ request. As you know, the university has already sustained a $53 million (14 percent) reduction over the last three years. An additional 5 percent would represent a $70 million reduction since FY15.

The House Finance Committee will continue its operating budget work throughout the week and will begin public testimony on the budget Thursday afternoon. I encourage you to take a moment to communicate your support for the university before the committee concludes its budget deliberations. You can do that in several ways, including calling or writing your legislators and by participating in public testimony on the budget. Use one of these opportunities to explain why the university is a priority to you.

Legislative office phone numbers are available here. You can contact your legislator by e-mail or via the Public Opinion Message (POM) system. Legislative e-mails are available here. If you wish to send an online POM go to: www.legis.state.ak.us/poms/. Remember, when communicating with the legislature please do not use university email or other university resources, and please do so on your own time, such as during lunch or after work.

Public testimony on the budget is scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. We will provide additional information on how that process works later this week.

In other budget activity this week, the Senate subcommittee responsible for reviewing the university’s budget held its first hearing Thursday, February 23rd. President Jim Johnsen responded to questions from Senators Natasha von Imhof, Gary Stevens and Berta Gardner. You can watch the hearing and get committee presentation materials here. You can watch 360 North’s broadcast of the committee here.

Other Events of Interest from Last Week

On Monday morning, President Johnsen discussed the university’s land grant deficit with the House Education Committee and give a similar presentation to the Senate Resources Committee later that afternoon.  You can watch 360 North’s coverage of the Education Committee’s hearing here and get President Johnsen’s presentation here. You can watch 360 North’s coverage of the Resources hearing here and get committee documents here.

On Tuesday, the House Fisheries Committee held a hearing on the Kodiak Seafood & Marine Science Center (KSMSC). Marine Advisory Program Director and KSMSC Co-Director Paula Cullenberg participated in the hearing. The committee adopted a resolution supporting continued legislative and university support of KSMSC. You can watch 360 North’s coverage here and get committee documents and a copy of the resolution here.

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were both in Juneau last week to deliver their annual addresses to the legislature. Senator Murkowski’s address was on Wednesday and Senator Sullivan’s was on Friday. You can watch 360 North’s coverage of Senator Murkowski’s address here as well as her post address press availability. You can watch Senator Sullivan’s address here and his post address press availability.

Also on Wednesday Dr. Lindsey Blumenstein with the UAA Justice Center participated in a “Lunch and Learn” organized by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Dr. Blumenstein presented results from the Alaska Victimization Survey and the UA Campus Climate Survey. You can watch 360 North’s coverage here.

Coming Up This Week:

Today at 1:00 p.m. the House Finance Committee will receive the close-out recommendations from the University’s budget subcommittee.

Wednesday, March 1st at 8:00 a.m. Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Michael Johnson will be discussing academic results in Alaska’s K-12 schools.

Thursday, March 2nd at 11:15 a.m. the Senate Subcommittee responsible for reviewing the university’s operating budget is scheduled to hold its second hearing. The agenda for that meeting has not been announced.

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska.

Read earlier Capitol Reports: www.alaska.edu/state/report

For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state

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