Gibbons, university officials meet to discuss budget cuts
The governor and top university officials met behind closed doors Tuesday to ease the tension over budget cuts.
Gov. Jim Gibbons a week ago advised all state agencies to reduce the amount of enhancements they are seeking this budget cycle to trim $111.8 million from proposed spending. That is the amount fiscal staff estimates revenues in the next two years will fall short of projections used to build the budget.
Chancellor Jim Rogers’ response to Gibbons’ directive was that any cuts would seriously damage the system of higher education. Rejecting the directive, he asked Gibbons to exempt the system from cuts as he did for K-12 education.
Gibbons responded that absolute rejection of any cuts was out of the question.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Gibbons said no actual cuts were discussed during the meeting, which is described as positive and “very accommodating.”
“We have to work together to make sure whatever we do causes the least harm to their budget,” he said. “The realities are whether or not we make those cuts, the Legislature will ultimately decide for us.”
He said system officials weren’t backing down on their attempt to avoid reductions.
“Their position is to get everything they can,” he said.
Executive Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich said the discussion was “a really positive, cordial meeting considering the fireworks before.”
He said the chancellor’s position is that agreeing on any cuts would just make those programs the target for the Legislature.
“We will, at some point, be discussing what is and what is not in the budget and it does not help our position if we are agreeing to some cuts with the governor,” he said. “That’s sort of negotiating against ourselves.”
Klaich said the chancellor argues that the highest priority for the Board of Regents is protecting the formula funding and the “hold harmless” funding that goes to campuses which are suffering flat or declining student registrations.
One of the governor’s arguments for budget reductions is that enrollments are 4,384 less than the number of students budgeted for at this point.
“We agreed to talk more and write less, to bring our staffs closer together to work on points of common interest,” he said. “And within available funding, (Gov. Gibbons) indicated he was going to continue to be as supportive of education as he could.”
Gibbons said his staff will work on some priorities while waiting for the Economic Forum to rule on how much the state’s revenue projections for the coming two years must be reduced. That decision will be made May 1 and, Gibbons said, will determine how much everyone including the university system must cut.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.