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UI president: Filling reserves should be last priority

UI president: Filling reserves should be last priority

Mitch Coffman
January 25, 2012
Mitch Coffman
January 25, 2012

During his time with members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Wednesday, University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said that filling state reserves for higher education should be the last priority of budget writers.

On Tuesday, lawmakers set a revenue target of $2.667 billion, about $33 million less than the governor’s projection. With that in mind, JFAC co-chair Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, asked Nellis how the state should treat higher education.

Nellis does not favor Otter’s plan to put $4.98 million into the Higher Education Stabilization Fund next fiscal year, saying that the timing isn’t right. “We’re still hurting and we are trying to move forward,” Nellis said, asking lawmakers to instead fill holes in program budgets before stashing money away.

His highest priority of Otter’s recommendations is keeping $41 million in one-time bonuses for all state workers. Nellis said his school is losing talented staffers to other universities because of low wages.

At least one lawmaker appeared to object to Nellis’ call. Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-IdahoFalls, wrote on his blog site that filling reserves is important because the “money that was in the rainy day accounts is how we survived through this recession.”

The state effectively drained reserve funds through the last few years, spending more than $381 million from savings accounts to prop up state programs.

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