FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Governor Dunleavy vetoed over 400 million dollars from the Fiscal Year 20-20 budget.
On Friday in Juneau, the Governor signed the operating budget, in which 444 million dollars were cut from the budget approved by the House and Senate.
The vetoes will affect the University of Alaska system and Medicaid the most, with around 130 million dollars in cuts to UAFF and UAA, and 50 million dollars in cuts to Medicaid, including the dissolution of the Senior Benefits Program.
Community colleges and the university in Southeast Alaska will remain intact.
Senate President, Republican Cathy Geissel, said in a statement today, “Over the past several years, the Senate has focused on reducing government spending. In making those reductions, we understand the importance of being careful to protect both the state's economy and core services Alaskans count on.”
Senator Scott Kawasaki, Democrat of Fairbanks said, “Governor Dunleavy continues to exemplify his contempt for quality pre-K through University education in Alaska. We must shed this style of politics, unite around a common vision for Alaska, and come together to build a University we are all proud of.”
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor, Bryce Ward, released his statement on social media. “The time for politics is over. Now is the time for statesmanship. In these times of uncertainty, the borough’s budget included contingencies. As a result, our taxpayers are seeing a mill rate increase in direct response to the state failing to fully fund school bond debt reimbursement. We did our job. It’s time for state leaders to do theirs,” said Ward.
In his statement, the Governor acknowledged this is a difficult situation, but said he believes everyone realizes that something must be done.
"Prior years there were attempts at using the PFD. People of Alaska rejected that. Attempts at multiple types of taxes, the legislature rejected that. So, we ran on a platform of trying to close this budget. we're focused on doing that. We're using a new approach in which we are reducing the size of government. We believe we can get there. It won't be easy, but the other options were not going to be easy, as well,” said Dunleavy.
University officials responded to the announcement on Friday that 41 percent of the state's university funding would be cut.
University of Alaska President, Jim Johnson, held a press conference on Friday after an emergency regents meeting.
He announced that if the legislature is not able to overturn Dunleavy's veto, the university will have to declare financial exigency.
This would allow Johnson to make sweeping decisions on what programs to cut, and which employees to terminate.
The university has never declared A financial exigency before, but Johnson said other universities have in recent times.
He made clear that this isn't bankruptcy, and that the university will survive.
But he did say that everything is on the chopping block, and he estimates 1,300 employees will be let go.
Johnson added that today, the Board of Regents gave him power to make interim decisions consistent with the budget reductions.
"So effective immediately, a hiring freeze across the university of Alaska, a travel freeze across the university of Alaska. All of our staff are getting 60 days notice of furlough, and there will be another number of aggressive cost management steps to be taken immediately,” said Johnsen.
UAF Chancellor, Dan White, spoke about how it would affect both the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"Just to put it into perspective, for you...so the hundred and thirty-four million dollar cut from where we are, today, is of that were split, and essentially the two appropriations the way its been laid out by the governor, UAA and UAF would essentially would share that, and essentially, its the main campus. All of our academic programs is about 50 million,” Chancellor White, said.
Johnsen and White say their focus now is going to be trying to get the veto overturned, as well as looking for ways to save money.