Johnsen

UA President Jim Johnsen





In response to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $130 million veto to the

university’s FY20 operating budget, University of Alaska President Jim

Johnsen, during an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents, outlined the

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immediate steps the university will take toward aggressive cost reductions

and to prepare for a possible declaration of financial exigency. Johnsen

told the regents that the devastating veto means disruption of educational

programs and community services for every UA campus including community

campuses and impact to every employee. The impacts will be felt across the

state.

“The cut is more than twice the most extreme cut we anticipated,” said

Johnsen. When combined with the $5 million cut previously approved by the

legislature, the university is being asked to cut $135 million or 41

percent in the fiscal year that begins in three days.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “We had several constructive meetings with the

governor and his team over the past few months. I believe we demonstrated

UA’s value to the state’s economy, our re-focused mission, reduced costs,

increased private fundraising, and strategic investments. We have also

created a task force to improve the university’s structure, and developed a

powerful vision for how the university enables Alaskans to create a strong

and sustainable future for our state.”

“The immediate impact of the governor’s decision will be to disrupt

students’ educations – we will have no choice but to immediately send

furlough notices to all employees, and if sustained, this cut will

necessitate massive layoffs of ­­­­faculty and staff, and we will need to

end programs rapidly to address a reduction of this scale. Longer term,

this decision will reduce opportunities for Alaskans, provide fewer skilled

employees for employers, reduce research that informs solutions to Alaskan

problems and limit economic development.”

This is the largest budget cut in the university’s 100-year history,

Johnsen said, and comes on top of state budget cuts in four out of the last

five years. If the governor’s veto is not overridden, we expect the Board

of Regents will declare exigency the week of July 15th. Prompt action now

will avoid the need for even steeper cuts later in the year.

“The impact of this proposed cut will be far greater than the $135 million

reduction of state funds to the university. It will impact our enrollment,

our research, and our philanthropy. This cut, if not reversed by the

legislature, will hurt Alaska’s economic competitiveness now and long into

the future,” he said.

“Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated without major

impact to current students’ education and future opportunities, to

communities all across the state, and to Alaska’s future,” he said.

In light of the Governor’s budget, regents directed Johnsen to take

immediate action to eliminate expenditures in the fiscal year that begins

this Monday. Furlough notices will be distributed immediately to all

university staff. In addition UA will institute an immediate freeze on

hiring, travel and new contracts. UA simply can’t meet these budget targets

without laying off a large number of people. In the event an override is

not secured, the Regents also directed Johnsen to prepare a plan for

declaring financial exigency by July 15th. This declaration permits the

university to more rapidly discontinue programs and academic units, and to

start the unprecedented process of removing tenured faculty. In addition

they may need to consider increasing student tuition and fees. However,

these interim measures will not come close to closing this budget gap.

In the meantime, he said, the university would continue to tell the story

of UA’s high quality programs and its critical role in our state’s economy

and our quality of life, and would appeal to legislators to consider

overriding the governor’s veto.

“The legislature clearly believes in the power of higher education and

agreed on a reduced but reasonable operating budget of $322 million, down

$5 million from the current year,” Johnsen said. “At this point, we will

ask legislators to affirm their support for the university by voting to

override this veto.”

“We are heading into uncharted territory with lots of uncertainty ahead,”

Johnsen said, “but we will stay focused on what is certain -- that UA is a

critical part of our state, that our students come first in everything we

do, and that we must all pull in the same direction in service to Alaska’s

future,” he said.

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