Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee were doing their jobs and doing them well Wednesday when they moved $8.5 million to the University of Alaska budget.
A legislator's job is all about weighing requests then trying to direct spending to the highest-priority enterprises among those that are appropriate for the state to undertake.
The university is both an appropriate and important state function, but it has suffered long neglect by its parent government.
Because the legislative leadership is dead set against raising the level of state spending and is instead trying to whittle it down, the $8.5 million approved for the university would come from some unusual sources. But make no mistake --spending the money on the university means some other state agency or program won't get it.
That's always a tough call to make, but it has to be made and the university is among the most worthy candidates in state government today.
About $6.5 million of the money would come from a surplus projected to be left over after the state finishes paying K-12 school districts around the state this fiscal year. The districts ended up not being eligible for as much money as the state had projected, apparently due to stagnating enrollment in some grade levels.
So the committee proposed to roll that money into the university budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
That sounds like a good call. No doubt the K-12 districts could use the money. But state K-12 spending has increased regularly to meet our growing population during the past decade, while state support for the university has been virtually level. If one asks which educational enterprise needs it more, the answer is obviously the university.
Another $2 million would come from the proceeds of the state's student loan program. Because of the way the state's spending plan is described, legislators can claim this expenditure won't run counter their efforts to cut ''general fund spending.''
Semantic games aside, it's all the state's money. Directing it to the university rather than some other sector of state government is a solid decision. Let's hope this particular decision not only sticks but starts a trend that ends up bringing UA the full $16.9 million it needs by the end of the session.
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