University of Alaska regents have postponed voting on a declaration of financial exigency, a contractual tool that allows more expedited cost cutting, including laying off of tenured faculty.
UA is facing an over $135 million reduction in state funding from the current year, including $130 million vetoed by Governor Mike Dunleavy. Exigency would be a serious hit to the university’s reputation, and Regent Darroll Hargraves, a Dunleavy appointee, suggested there may be a way to ease toward reduced state support.
”What we need is a glide path of, I would say, three years to make the cut,” Hargraves said.
Regents voted to delay consideration of exigency until a July 30 meeting, when UA President Jim Johnsen will lay out specific cost reduction measures. The new fiscal year began July 1, and Johnsen emphasized that each day the university operates at status quo compounds the impact of any state funding cut.
”It just means that it will be a steeper reduction that will need to be achieved in-year,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen said he’s in regular communication with the governor’s office and state legislators, who last week failed to garner enough votes to overturn Governors Dunleavy’s vetoes, which targeted the university as well as numerous other state programs. Override supporter, Republican State Senator Click Bishop of Fairbanks, attended the regents meeting and offered a tearful apology, calling the university cut a travesty that sends the wrong message to young people.
”But I want you to know, I’m not done and we’re going to turn this around,” Bishop said.
Another override backer, Democratic Representative Andy Josephson of Anchorage also spoke at the meeting. Josephson described the situation which has yielded the massive budget cuts as a political crisis, and said an alternate means of funding the university is in the works.