Dr. Jim Johnsen, president of the University of Alaska, center, listens to Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, left and Mike Barnhill, policy director for the OMB, as their continue to present Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Dr. Jim Johnsen, president of the University of Alaska, center, listens to Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, left and Mike Barnhill, policy director for the OMB, as their continue to present Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

With state government shutdown looming, university preparing for late, reduced budget

Officials unsure what to expect from governor

With a week and a half left until a possible state government shutdown, organizations are starting to prepare for the worst.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has not yet signed the operating budget passed by the Alaska Legislature, and the new fiscal year begins July 1. On Wednesday, the University of Alaska Board of Regents granted UA President Jim Johnsen the power to cover certain operations for the university beginning July 1 if there isn’t a budget in place by then, according to a release.

Regents have to approve a budget before money is spent, this authorization allows Johnsen to allocate money to cover basic functions of the university system until a budget is passed, UA Office of Public Affairs Communications and Marketing Manager Monique Musick explained via phone Wednesday.

[University officials to consider having one University of Alaska, not three]

Associate Vice President of Public Affairs Robbie Graham said Wednesday that the university system has requested short-term funds from the Office of Management and Budget in case there isn’t a budget by July 1. That’s fairly standard, Graham said, when there isn’t a full budget prepared as a new fiscal year approaches.

She said the university can also pull from money they have set aside from the federal government, grants, tuition and other sources.

“We would look to keep the core services and the urgent services up and running, as well as some of the research and other programs that receive federal funds and are funded by sources outside the general budget,” Graham said.

There’s a huge amount of uncertainty for the university system in particular, as the Legislature proposed a $5 million cut (about 2 percent) and the governor’s original budget proposal included a $134 million (41 percent) cut to the university system. The governor has the authority to veto the whole budget or specific parts of the Legislature’s budget.

“We simply cannot manage substantial cuts without impact on the university and the state,” Johnsen said in a release. “The threat is serious. We can talk about program reductions, but our obligation to students does not go away just because we eliminate a program.”

Once a budget is signed by the governor the university will return to the Regents with a specific funding plan for its approval. The board has tentatively planned to meet again on June 28 to approve a budget or they will call an emergency meeting to take action once the budget is final.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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