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September 30, 2014

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Board of Regents asks for increase in state funding

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Steve Marcus

Students return to campus during the first day of the fall semester at UNLV Monday, August 23, 2010.

After sharp debate, the Nevada Board of Regents on Friday approved a budget that includes a request for a nearly 25 percent increase in state spending, despite Gov. Jim Gibbons' call for a 10 percent cut in spending among all state agencies.

Overall, the 2011-2013 budget, including student and other fees, approved by a vote of 11-1 would rise about 3 percent to $1.65 billion. But the most sensitive part of the budget is the 72 cents for every dollar the higher education system receives that comes from the state.

Next year, the Legislature is facing a $3 billion shortfall in a two-year budget of more than $16 billion.

The regents voted to ask the state for $1.19 billion, nearly $237 million more than they received in the 2009-2011 period.

University officials noted that $185 million in federal stimulus spending won't be available in the future.

Chancellor Daniel Klaich, who submitted the budget, said it was premature to budget for cuts and noted the overall budget rise of 3 percent. "I never thought flat was outrageous," he told regents.

Talking about the "elephant in the room," the governor's call for a 10 percent cut, Klaich said, "it's simply premature. This is not the time for budget cuts."

He said identifying cuts now, then, as is likely, he said, undergoing one or more cutting exercises in the future would be ruinous to higher education.

"It's programs, careers and 120 days of hell, as you go through the list of who will stay and who will go," he said. "We can't go to our campuses and say you may be next but please stay and work. This is not a benign process, it's not a simple process."

He noted, however, that "nothing could be further from the truth" that the budget is "in contempt" of Gibbons.

The Board of Regents is an independently elected board. The governor appoints the heads of most state agencies but the university doesn't regard itself as a state agency.

Regent Ron Knecht of Carson City, the only vote against the budget, said "expecting an increase at this point would be the height of self-absorption."

"It simply isn't so," he said, that spending on education will immediately stimulate economic growth.

Knecht said the regents were representatives of Nevada's people, not a "cheerleader for higher education."

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