Following a failed veto override vote by the Legislature and with only two days left for another attempt, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said the university will continue to plan as though the override will be unsuccessful.
“We have programs to plan for, students to plan for — so we will be moving forward,” he said.
The 38 lawmakers present in Juneau voted of 37-1 to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s 182 line item vetoes, which includes a $130 million veto of state funds for the university. But 45 votes are needed for an override, and 20 other legislators remained in Wasilla, where the governor called for the special session to be held.
During a news conference following the 2 p.m. vote on Wednesday, Johnsen said he has been told the lawmakers in Wasilla would be traveling to Juneau to further discuss an override. The Legislature has until Friday to override the vetoes.
“Failing that, my understanding is that they will be considering some other possibility for funding for some of the organizations negatively affected by the vetoes,” he said. “Whether that’s base money or one-time money, whether, how much money it is, when that happens — all of that is a big mark and uncertain at this point.”
Johnsen said the university will be preparing for the Board of Regents meeting on Monday, where the plan is still to propose declaring financial exigency and discuss options for cost reductions.
“This is a time of tremendous uncertainty and I think it’s important that we are transparent and honest with our people about this event and the lack of certainty we have going forward,” he said, “but at the same time, I think it’s critically important to provide what assurances we can that there is a way forward.”
Johnsen added that he thinks it’s important to communicate to students that the university will still be here come fall semester.
“The schedule is set, the faculty will be here, the labs will be open,” he said. “So we will be operating this fall.”
He added the university has to make big cost reductions, which will be taken in non-academic areas, before looking at what to do spring semester.
University layoffs are anticipated for the coming semester, according to Johnsen, and all programs are on the table for possible cuts.
Johnsen expressed pride in the recent support he has been seeing for the university in the wake of this legislative session.
“A couple of reactions: The first was a real sense of pride, and accomplishment and appreciation for the strong and passionate statements of support for a hopeful vision for Alaska and for a strong University of Alaska,” he said. “So that was very, very gratifying to hear and I really appreciated those statements.”
Johnsen said he has been receiving phone calls, letters and emails, and has seen rallies in support of the university.
“That said, disappointed, of course, about the fact that there were only 38 legislators there,” he said.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal