UA gets less than hoped for in early budget deliberations

Posted: Sunday, March 03, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The spending plan proposed by House Republicans includes a smaller increase for the University of Alaska than its administrators requested.

The newly released House Finance Committee targets, to be used as a starting point for budget discussions, call for a $4.6 million UA operations spending increase.

Gov. Tony Knowles and UA officials are seeking a $16.9 million boost, arguing it is needed to meet a rise in expenses and address needs in Alaska's work force.

Last year House Republican leaders proposed a $9.3 million UA increase. After budget wrangling, the university hike was $14.3 million.

House Finance Committee co-chairmen said that with a projected billion-dollar budget shortfall this year, the goal is to hold the line on state spending.

They also said their proposal would be the third year in a row for increased UA spending while other state services have not fared nearly so well.

''Building a foundation for a fiscal plan means more than just adding new revenues,'' said Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage.

Interior lawmakers have expressed strong support for the full university request. Rep. Joe Hayes, D-Fairbanks, shook his head as he pondered the committee target.

''It just makes no sense,'' Hayes said. ''There are some things you have to invest in.''

UA President Mark Hamilton said last month that the increase would fuel the economic and education machine that can deliver the state into a strong future.

The increase is also needed to help UA rebound from funding neglect in the 1990s, he said.

''I don't believe there is any possibility to save ourselves into prosperity,'' Hamilton told legislators.

Hamilton said the university uses its state general funds to leverage much more money from private and federal sources.

Negotiated salary increases represent $5.7 million of the $16.9 million UA request. Another $3.8 million is for fixed cost increases for items such as utilities and library books, according to UA officials.

The additional $7.2 million is to meet industry demands, Hamilton said, in business, health, engineering, teacher education, natural resource management and research.

Some money would also would be used to recruit and retain students and upgrade technology.

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