2011 legislative preview
By Andrew Sheeler
Sun Star Reporter
The 2011 session of Alaska’s 27th Legislature began in Juneau on Tuesday, Jan. 18, and UA President Patrick Gamble and Gov. Sean Parnell have released their Redbook and Bluebook respectively. The Redbook and Bluebook represent the budget priorities of their authors, and the two have much in common. The university has requested $350.8 million in general funds for the current year, with the governor recommending a smaller $347.1 million.
For President Gamble’s priorities, “Deferred maintenance is the really big one,” said Kate Ripley, the UA Statewide spokeswoman. Gov. Parnell has allotted $37.5 million in funds to repair aging building throughout the university system. The governor has also recommended $2 million for regular, annual maintenance, a fraction of the $25 million requested by the university. That isn’t the only place where the Parnell and Gamble disagree.
Gamble requested, and Parnell rejected, $2.3 million in funding for high-priority programs, including heath and biomedical, teacher education and programs to support student success. Finally, Parnell rejected the university’s request for $12 million in funding for state-sponsored research. For all the areas where Parnell and Gamble’s priorities differ, the university hopes to lobby the Legislature for support.
Ripley said that the university was pleased with Parnell’s decision to approve operating funds that would pay for a 50-cent increase in wages for student workers. Parnell also recommended that the state spend $8.2 million to fund the newly created Alaska Performance Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship that Parnell was a major advocate for. Finally, Parnell proposed an additional $1 million for needs-based financial aid.
One person who thinks Parnell isn’t doing enough in pushing for needs-based aid is Rep. David Guttenberg, whose district includes UAF. Guttenberg said that students in Alaska are facing increasing costs attendant with going to school.
“The state has a vested interest in covering the cost of that,” Guttenberg said.
Although Gamble is taking a low-key approach to the budget this year following last year’s bruising legislative battle for the life sciences building, Rep. Scott Kawasaki of Fairbanks has different ideas. Kawasaki wrote HB 38, a bill that would create a school of medicine at UAF and a school of law at UAA. Ripley said that the university currently has no comment on the bill, but that the University Board of Regents has the ability to start a new school at any time.