I’ve just read the so-called “compact”that Gov. Mike Dunleavy had the University of Alaska sign Tuesday in a session that appeared to be as consensual as a hostage video.
It is not a compact and it is not binding. It is a piece of publicity generated in response to the recall campaign. It reflects a poor decision by the governor that would make the university less competitive for research and faculty members and more unattractive for students.
The next three years would be the era of the Dunleavy Decline, guaranteed to create long-lasting damage.
It should not be lost on anyone that Dunleavy overstepped his bounds. The Legislature appropriates funds, not the governor.
The headlines Tuesday in Alaska proclaimed that the governor and university leaders had agreed on a three-year plan to dismantle major elements of the institution by cutting $70 million over three years. The headlines were wrong.
The governor described this document as an agreement with the university on the budget for the next three years. But the document does not contain what he claimed it does.
A Dunleavy press release says “the agreement also means that budgets submitted to the governor by the board of regents over the next two fiscal years will reflect $45 million in additional reductions.”
That is not in the so-called compact.
Even if the regents could make an agreement of this kind with the governor, they would have no business doing so because it is their job to advocate for the university with both the Governor and the Legislature. It would be irresponsible for the regents to treat Dunleavy’s desires as orders.
What the document actually says is that the regents agree that Dunleavy wants a $70 million cut over three years. That is the full extent of the budget agreement, contained in a document dressed up to resemble a legal paper.
One of the real laughers is the statement at the end: “This agreement expires by its own terms, effective three years from the date of signing, and may be extended by mutual agreement in writing.”
The agreement should expire by being placed in the trash compactor.
The university had no choice but to take part in this Dunleavy hostage taking because the only other option was for a $130 million cut in one year. This tactic is an abuse of power by the governor.
The good news is that the non-binding compact/press release means the regents remain free to pursue a more reasonable budget from the Legislature, where there is bipartisan majority support for higher education.
The Legislature has voted twice this year to support the university, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a governor who is trying to rule by veto alone. The last thing we need now is for the university to surrender.
Nothing in the document prevents the UA Board of Regents from asking the Legislature for a higher budget than Dunleavy wants. That’s what the regents need to do as they assess the needs of the next generation, something that Dunleavy has demonstrated he is incapable of doing.
The headlines should be: "Dunleavy wants $70 million cut, while UA agrees that is what Dunleavy wants."