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The week of February 12th through the 15th was a four day work week. Even though the week was short, it was nonetheless, a very important week. The Appropriations Committee, consisting of nine members, hears testimony each session on issues and entities funded by the state. On February 14th the committee heard testimony on the proposed budget cuts to the University of Nebraska. The Governor has proposed cutting the University’s budget by $11 million this fiscal year and by $23 million in fiscal year 2018-2019. This is on top of the cuts the University already sustained in the previous year. At the hearing President Hank Bounds stated the University accounts for 13% of the state’s budget but is being asked to take approximately 34% of the cuts.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a staunch supporter of education. Having spent 43 years in K-12 education helping create school environments where students can thrive and prepare to continue on to the next step, I believe education is the best investment we make in our state and its citizens. Our young people are not only Nebraska’s best hope for our future, they are our only hope.
However, yet again, the University is being asked to absorb even more cuts. President Bounds and the administration have looked at eliminating geography, art history and electronics engineering degree programs in Lincoln, closing the Haskell Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Concord, closing the dental hygiene program in Gering and Scottsbluff, eliminating some staffing and faculty positions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and eliminating the men’s baseball, tennis and golf programs at the Kearney campus. These programs are considered to be either “low yield” or a way to pull back satellite programs to the main campuses. These cuts total $9 million.
The initial proposed cuts offered by the Governor come to $34 million in the next year and a half. In response, President Bounds stated “We are at a defining moment in Nebraska’s history. We have a choice to make. Are we going to reaffirm the partnership between the state and its public university that has opened the door of opportunity to young people and driven economic growth for almost 150 years? Or will you decide that you no longer see the value that the University of Nebraska provides?” (Testimony by President Hank Bounds to the Appropriations Committee, 2/14/18)
I find the proposed severe cuts in appropriations to the University to be disconcerting at best. I will find it difficult to vote to approve any budget that calls for that level of cuts to our University system.
To follow the legislative process, including committee hearings and floor debate by the full Legislature, go to nebraskalegislature.gov to stream these proceedings live; or watch gavel-to-gavel coverage on NET television.
To contact my office directly, use 402-471-2620 or email@example.com. I welcome your communication.