Dunleavy plan counts on 'Angel Bucks' to save the University of Alaska

Some of you may remember the SNL skit in which the ghost of sportscaster Harry Caray returns to give a sports report from the afterlife,

“You know what they use for currency in heaven?” says Caray, played by Will Ferrell.

“Angel Bucks. You always have 100 Angel Bucks in your wallet. And even after you pay for something you still have 100 Angel Bucks.”

I mention this because in the political comedy masquerading as the Dunleavy Debacle, there is a real-life example of everlasting Angel Bucks an official state document.

As Harry Caray would say, “Hey!”

Temporary budget director Donna Arduin has produced a plan that would dismantle the University of Alaska with a 41 percent cut to state general fund spending.

In right-wing yakking circles, the largest cut in university history is being falsely advertised as inconsequential and nothing to worry about. Why? Because the university receives hundreds of millions in federal funds, tuition, etc.

What the Republican Party blog and others fail to point out is that the general fund allocation is critical to receiving tens of millions in matching grant funds.

For every dollar lost in general funds supporting research, the university loses about $6 in revenue from outside sources. This money is critical to the Fairbanks economy and essential to the work of hundreds of researchers trying to advance the state of knowledge in an ever-changing world.

The loss of $134 million in state funds would have a much greater impact than anyone will acknowledge. It would lead to lower revenues from federal grants, lower revenues from tuition, and make the university less competitive. Think of it as the opposite of the multiplier effect.

The most magical element of the Dunleavy university budget would shift $154 million from real money to Angel Bucks.

The state won’t say that it is proposing $154 million in imaginary money, so the bottom line for the university looks healthy.

(It is possible that the total of imaginary money may be closer to $200 million. This reduces, on the surface, the relative percentage of state general fund money, which is real. Subtract all imaginary money and the general fund percentages are much higher.)

With this sort of trickery, right-wing philosophers have been led to believe that the university budget is not getting cut at all and that the university is lying. So much for the honest budget that every Alaskan can understand.

The change in definition of the $154,339,100 from general funds to “university receipt authority” means that instead of making an appropriation, the state would give the university its blessing to stand outside every administrative office and wait for the Angel Bucks to fall from the sky.

The budget office is also proposing a plan to divide community campuses and the main campuses with and has tossed out numbers to see what sticks. Some of Dunleavy’s advisers want to turn the entire university into a network of community colleges.

“They didn’t work with the university to come up with these numbers and it is not clear how their math works,” a document prepared for legislators says.

The university could try and double tuition to raise money. That would force many students to leave Alaska, probably never to return.

The Arduin/Dunleavy plan only works in the land of make believe, where you always have $100 in Angel Bucks in your wallet.

Dermot Cole4 Comments