Senate rejects plan to boost UA funds

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2000

It was good enough for 38 House members, but not for the Senate Finance Committee.

Today, Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican, said the GOP majority in the Senate didn't like a bill passed by the House that would have raised the University of Alaska budget by $34 million over the next two years. The measure, he said, would not get a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, which he co-chairs.

That means the measure, which won bipartisan support in the House, won't be heard on the Senate side. The Finance Committee was its only planned stop.

``We're just not interested in forward-funding the university at this point,'' Torgerson said. He also said there wasn't any point to bringing up House Bill 441 because there isn't enough support for it to pass.

The bill, introduced by the House Finance Committee and championed by Rep. Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, proposed to draw $206 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, a state savings account.

Mulder said it would be ``unfortunate'' if the Senate doesn't even give the bill a hearing. He said a strong university is a key to the state's future.

The bill pays the University of Alaska's general fund base for the 2001 fiscal year -- about $172 million -- plus puts $34 million more toward the university to be spent in the next two years.

To allow for the draw from the budget reserve, the bill needed and got a three-quarters vote in the House, with minority Democrats joining the GOP majority in supporting the measure.

The university may still see more money in the 2001 fiscal year. The operating budget currently in a conference committee allows for a maximum of $8.5 million more than the current fiscal year for university operations. A bill still alive would also aim a few million dollars toward the university's vocational programs.

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