Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Fellow Fairbanksans,
Governor Strikes Deal with University over Budget: My Thoughts
Today, the Governor signed the operating budget (HB2001) which restored $110 million of vetoed funding back to the University. Other cuts that were reversed include the Alaska State Council on the Arts, senior benefits, community services grants (homelessness assistance), early learning, Alaska Legal Services, Online with Libraries, and agricultural programs. I'm glad to see these cuts restored. However, the Gov did keep cuts that I do not agree with to: Alaska Public Broadcasting, Ocean Rangers, Medicaid, VPSO program, Civil Air Patrol, and the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Last Tuesday, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen signed a three-year de-funding plan alongside Board of Regents Chair John Davies and Governor Dunleavy. This non-legally binding, handshake deal would create a "glide path" for the University to scale back operations by $70 million over the course of the next three years, starting with $25 million decrements each year for the next two years. This is a step back from the $135 million cut initially proposed by the Governor.
While I am glad to see that the Governor is willing to avoid a $135 million cut, I still believe that these cuts are unnecessary and will hurt the University system and the Fairbanks community. The Legislature is the appropriating body for funding, and we have worked hard to operate all branches of government more efficiently. We have cut from the University four of the past five years, and I believe that we are reaching the point where we have cut enough. The University is an economic and cultural driver in our state, and additional cuts to the University will damage the State as a whole. Only time will tell how this new multi-year deal will proceed, or how it will be received by the Legislature as a whole. I will continue to fight for University funding. This non-binding deal does not hamper the Legislature from restoring University funding in future years.