Friday, January 30, 2009

NFA-UNLV response to Governor's proposed budget cuts

The UNLV chapter of the NFA has been concerned about the state's budget situation all year, and our members were very active with the NFA PAC during the endorsement season over spring and summer to meet with legislative leaders and all the candidates we could to forge relationships that we now hope will give us some voice in the state budget and other important matters that the legislature will address.

We were active in the NFA's effort during the fall to limit the extent of the rash and counter-productive proposals that the Chamber of Commerce and some members of the Governor's SAGE Commission have been pushing concerning employee health benefits. The NFA sought, without success, to lobby the Governor's office to take into account the unanticipated costs to the state, and the harm to the Higher Ed system, that these hastily-drawn up proposals would cause.

We are now working closely with our members, the System office, the UNLV administration, student leaders, and other public employee groups to emphasize to the legislature how for reasons not only of fairness but also for the competitiveness of our university and the state, that
>there be no further budget cuts to the UNLV base budget than those enacted over the past few years (which have amounted to more than 8% since fall 2007)
>that while in a time of hardship we understand the need for shared sacrifice there be no cuts to base salaries of faculty and staff (we have already in the past cuts to merit pay in the last year and the elimination of COLA and merit for the next two years already announced) and
>that while it expected that the PEBP board make annual modifications to the health insurance plan for faculty/staff, it is essential that health benefits for active workers and for retirees remain competitive with other institutions.

Above all, we are emphasizing that the university's essence is the commitment among its people -- faculty and staff in their career-long and life-long relationship with students, alumni and the community. If the state makes it impossible for faculty and staff to maintain that level of commitment over a career and a lifetime (by forcing faculty and staff and their families to bear an undue share of the burden of the state's fiscal crisis), then the heart of the university is irrevocably severed. We will simply not be able to compete for, and retain, top faculty and we will then lose our appeal to top students in the state.

Finally, on campus, we were involved in the student rally last week, our members attended and spoke at the townhall last night and we are working to organize and mobilize faculty to speak effectively to the state legislature

We have long and will continue to support the principle of affordable, excellent higher education in Nevada and are ready to do our part, along with all others, to help the state meet its current challenges. We expect in return that the state's solutions will be fair and will have the best long-term interests of the state at heart. The Governor's budget, or anything close to it, will threaten those long-term interests.

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