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University president: Governor’s cuts ‘a policy choice’

March 8, 2019

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposal that cuts university funding is a “policy choice for Alaskans, not a fiscal necessity,” the president of the University of Alaska said.

University President Jim Johnsen wrote to staff, faculty and students Wednesday, countering the Republican governor’s letter to the university community from earlier this week, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

Dunleavy has proposed sweeping cuts, including to education, to address a $1.6 billion deficit projected for the coming fiscal year.

Dunleavy characterized the reduction to university funding as a 17 percent cut to the overall university budget, rather than a 41 percent cut in state funding — that he wrote had been inaccurately reported by some. Both amount to the same thing.

“Whether the governor’s proposed cut to the university is 41 percent of our state funding or 17 percent of our total budget, it is still a cut of $134 million,” Johnsen wrote.

Under the governor’s budget, the university’s state funding would be reduced to $193 million from the $327 million it received this year. The university has lost about $195 million in cumulative budget cuts over the last four years, leading to program losses and about 1,200 layoffs.

Dunleavy has justified the proposed cuts by citing the deficit forecast, but his budget includes a $1.9 billion appropriation for full dividend payouts of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Johnsen wrote.

“This budget then is a policy choice for Alaskans, not a fiscal necessity,” Johnsen wrote.

Jeremy Price, the governor’s chief of staff, said in a statement that it looks like Johnsen wants to prevent residents from receiving dividend payments so the state can “pay for a university system that has grown beyond its means, consistently failed to perform, and very frankly lost the trust of many Alaskans through its mismanagement.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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