Nebraska University President Hank Bounds issues a dire warning in his appearance before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, arguing proposed budget cuts will not just cripple the university system, but hamper its efforts to spur economic growth.
As president of the university system, Bounds tells budget committee members $11 million in cuts this year, plus $23 million next year will have drastic consequences.
“The university will manage the consequences of whatever choice you make,” Bounds says, adding that his role is to inform committee members of those consequences.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has proposed the legislature cut $11.4 million from the University of Nebraska this fiscal year and $23.2 million next fiscal year. The cuts are part of the governor’s proposal to make 2% across-the-board cuts this year and 4% next year to cope with declining state revenue.
Bounds suggests the legislature wait until the fall to enact any cuts, saying it appears state revenue is beginning to turn the corner and drastic cuts might not be needed.
Bounds’ testimony comes on the heels of announcements by the University of Nebraska campuses about cuts they have recommended to cope with declining state funding. The University of Nebraska at Kearney has proposed dropping men’s baseball, tennis, and golf.
The four main campuses have improved efficiencies over the past couple of years, according to Bounds, leaving little wiggle room in the face of deeper cuts to state funding. Bounds tells lawmakers studies indicate the university provides a 6-to-1 return on the investment the legislature makes, providing the research and graduates which spurs state economic growth. He says deeper cuts will prevent it from that mission.
“Put simply, budget cuts mean that your university would be less able to contribute to the goal that we all share and that is to grow our state,” according to Bounds.
Bounds says if the budget cuts are approved by the legislature, departments will be closed, majors will be dropped, and sports cut, leading faculty and students to leave Nebraska.
“The message that we’re sending here is akin to putting a ‘For Sale’ sign in faculty members’ yards,” Bounds says.
The Appropriations Committee has heard from University of Nebraska officials. It has made no decision on what it will recommend to the full Unicameral, yet.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]
AUDIO: NU President Hank Bounds testifies before the Appropriations Committee. [21:12]