Lawmakers recommend more cuts to University budget

The House Finance University of Alaska Subcommittee recommends cutting $35 million from the university’s budget for the upcoming year.

Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Jim Johnsen, University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Combined with Governor Bill Walker’s proposed $15 million cut, the university would lose one in seven dollars in state funding.

The subcommittee also voted to support consolidating the university’s three campus administrations by the end of the year.

University President James Johnsen has proposed cutting administrative costs and streamlining programs, but the subcommittee’s cuts go much further.

“I don’t have a problem reducing administrative costs and generating – getting those revenues over into our academic programs,” Johnsen said. “So, we’ll see. But to do, to change three accredited universities, that’s a big deal. That’s not going to happen in 2016. But to reduce administrative costs across the system, we can definitely do that.”

The subcommittee voted for the cuts 5:2 on Wednesday. Supporters of the cut noted that including federal and other funds, the university’s budget is eight hundred seventy-five million dollars.

Johnsen says he’s glad the cuts didn’t go even deeper. Subcommittee Chairwoman Tammie Wilson, a North Pole Republican, had initially wanted a $45 million cut, but scaled back the cut after hearing from university leaders.

Johnsen says he’ll fight for more money before the Legislature completes the budget.

“I appreciate the move the committee made,” said Johnsen. “I appreciate the statements made by committee members that this is the beginning of the process. Um, I’m still disappointed, however, in the outcome of this proceeding. But knowing there’s a process to move forward with, we’ll continue to press it.”

The House Finance Committee will vote on the recommendations before the full House votes. The university regents ultimately decide how the budget will be spent.