University of Alaska president: Dunleavy budget vetoes ‘will impact everything we do’

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen delivers the State of the University Address at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Juneau on Feb. 16, 2017.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen delivers the State of the University address at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Juneau on Feb. 16, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line-item budget vetoes, announced on Friday, include a roughly $130 million reduction in state support for the University of Alaska system. That’s in addition to a $5 million cut to UA already approved by state legislators. Combined, they reduce state support for the university by about $135 million, or about 40% from the previous year’s budget.

Dunleavy said on Friday he has faith that university leaders will be able to work through the loss.

“I believe they can turn the University of Alaska into, if not the finest university of the Arctic — in a few select areas, I don’t think they can be all things to all people. And I think that’s, generally speaking, the state of Alaska. We can’t continue to be all things for all people. We don’t have the money to do that,” Dunleavy said.

Speaking to the University of Alaska Board of Regents during a special budget meeting Friday, UA President Jim Johnsen underscored the severity of the cut.

”This budget will impact everything we do in every location where we operate,” Johnsen said. “Every student, every faculty member that we employ, every staff person that we employ.”

Dunleavy included a similar UA cut in his original proposed budget. Johnsen described the reduction as “devastating” and outside what university administrators had planned to accommodate.

”We were estimating a $30 million cut, a $40 million cut, a $50 million cut and a $60 million cut,” Johnsen said. “While severe, these were manageable. The cut is more than twice the most extreme cut that we anticipated.”

Johnsen said the cut means plans for an orderly downsizing plan cannot be followed, and he listed immediate actions being taken.

”A hiring freeze immediately effective, a travel freeze immediately effective, unnecessary contracts with vendors and contractors immediately effective,” Johnsen said. “We will be distributing a furlough notice to all our staff immediately.”

Johnsen said the university is also stepping up advocacy to encourage legislators to override the governor’s veto.

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