Deal for UA cuts $70 M over three years

Several thousand people gathered at outside the Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times

A multi-year deal reached between Gov. Mike Dunleavy and University of Alaska officials will result in a $70 million cut in state funds over a three-year period, in place of the one-year $136 million reduction in state funds outlined in the governor’s initial line item cuts.

The agreement signed on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the governor’s office in Anchorage, includes a $35 million cut for the current fiscal year, followed by $35 million cuts for fiscal 2021 and 2022.

The agreement also means that budgets submitted to the governor by the UA Board of Regents over the next two fiscal years will reflect $45 million in additional reductions, the governor said.

According to Dunleavy, the multi-year step-down approach will “provide our communities, campuses and students the certainty they’ve been asking for, while also taking on the serious challenge of reforming the university into a more efficient system.”

“A $70 million reduction, even over three years is a serious reduction,” said UA President Jim Johnsen. “It will require careful review and streamlining of administrative structure, academic programs, and services to ensure that resources are focused on student access and achievement. But by restoring the Legislature’s appropriated funding for this fiscal year, and by spreading reductions out over the next two years, the required restructuring can be done more methodically, with less impact on students.”

A copy of the agreement is online at gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/8.13.19-UA-SOA-Compact.pdf.

Members of the Alaska House Majority released a statement thanking thousands of Alaskans who stood behind the Legislature to push back against the initial cuts proposed in the university’s budget, saying those voices made the difference.

“While I am supremely grateful that the University of Alaska will not face such drastic cuts today, these vetoes never should have happened in the first place,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham. “I remain concerned about the potential impacts of future reductions, and I firmly stand by the Legislature’s role as the appropriating body.”

Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said he was pleased with the partially returned funding, adding that he is hopeful that the three-year stepdown process will allow the university to plan for a successful future that preserves its role as an economic driver for the state.

“Alaskans deserve a strong university system,” said Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage. “I thank everyone who stood tall for our students, professors and economy. If citizens wonder whether their voices carry any weight with policymakers, today’s decision makes it abundantly clear that they do.”