Forum Addresses Governor's Budget Proposal
“There is no more room for gimmicks or one-time tricks. Systemic changes are inevitable.” That was the key message NMU President Les Wong delivered to the audience at yesterday’s university forum. The governor has proposed a 19.7 percent cut in state funding for NMU, or 15 percent if the university does not raise tuition more than 7.1 percent.
“I really have to dispel any disbelief you have about the size and probability of this cut,” Wong said. “You have to understand the magnitude of this. A 15 percent cut is $6.77 million dollars in permanent money, not one-time money. This is an ongoing permanent reduction. That’s the cost of educating 521 students at NMU. It represents nearly 85-100 jobs. We are not going to stop serving students or eliminate 85 jobs. It is my goal to try to keep everybody working to the best of our ability. I can’t promise that, but it’s one of my goals.
“But we are at a point after eight consecutive years of budget reductions where we have to look at systemic changes. Work assignments will change. We have to be serious about what we’re going to stop doing. The success of budget cuts has been the presumption that you won’t change; you’ll just do more. Now I want you to say, ‘Here’s my plan to hit this goal and here are the five things than will not be done by my staff or department anymore.’”
Wong said the governor would like to complete the budget process by June 1, but will likely face challenges in taxing retirement pensions and benefits. There is also legislation on the table to cut all state salaries, including those of university workers, 5 percent, and to require employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health care coverage. Wong said NMU will develop a budget model by mid-April and distribute it to the campus community for feedback.
“We’re smart, we’re creative, we’re good people. I look to your help and cooperation. It’s going to take openness in thinking on your part. And please remember, it’s the early innings. This budget still has to go through the House and Senate. … It’s a big challenge, but I’d rather have you around me than any group I’ve been around my entire career.
To view his full presentation, visit Forum.