Local View: Proposed University of Nebraska budget cuts would hurt state

Local View: Proposed University of Nebraska budget cuts would hurt state

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Nebraskans have a long tradition of working together to grow our state.

The reason is simple: It works. Throughout my law career and time in public service, I’ve seen over and over that the best way to make real progress is to unite around shared goals and then develop a plan together to achieve them.

Today, with our state facing fiscal challenges that invite tough conversations about our priorities, we again have an opportunity to join together, think about the long game and build a plan for making Nebraska the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family.

The University of Nebraska, one of our state’s most important engines for economic growth and opportunity, needs to be a part of that conversation.

That’s why I’m struggling with the fact that the recent budget proposal assigns one-third of the cuts to the University of Nebraska when our university only makes up 13 percent of the state’s budget – especially at a time when the university’s upward trajectory puts us in the perfect position to help state policymakers grow our way out of this challenge.

I’m a lifelong Nebraskan and Republican who favors limited government. I’m all for tightening our belts during tough times. But I also think it’s important for us to make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of our workforce, economy and the young people who are our future.

As our hard-working colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and in the Legislature now begin their own budget deliberations, I’m asking them to think differently and boldly about the best path forward for 53,000 University of Nebraska students and the citizens across this state whose daily lives are touched by the university in more ways than they may even know.

I know there are few easy choices. At the university, too, we are in the midst of difficult work that will reduce our spending by $30 million – cuts that have already affected jobs and our vital missions of teaching, research and outreach. We’re going to continue to find every dollar in savings that we can, although we will also be candid about the impact that further cuts would have on the affordability of a university education and the depth and breadth of our academic programs.

Even as we all have these hard conversations, I know the senators I talk to are completely focused on what’s best for the citizens of Nebraska. They understand that the choices we make today will impact not just our lives but the lives of our children and our children’s children.

I know they want to send a strong signal to the young people of our state and our generous private-sector partners that Nebraska is committed to the tradition of partnership that has served us so well for a century and a half.

They believe, as I do, that this spirit of partnership requires stable investment in our university, so that affordable tuition and a high-quality education, which students and parents deserve, remains in place.

They see, as I do, that partnership means accomplishing things none of us could do alone. Look at UNL’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center, the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, UNMC’s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center or the health science complex in Kearney as examples of what is possible when we join forces.

In many cases, the vision and commitment demonstrated by our forward-thinking legislators was the spark we needed to attract philanthropic interest and make those projects a reality – and our investments are already paying off in terms of service to livestock owners, world-class treatment for cancer patients and more nurses and physical therapists for rural Nebraska’s workforce.

These are the stories that are growing Nebraska every day, in every community across our state. They are happening in part because of the university and its hard-working partners at the Capitol and in the private sector.

There’s never been a more important time to double down on that work. Let’s declare that we are all going to come together on a plan to grow Nebraska into the future, and that the University of Nebraska – a source of talent, innovation and 11,000 graduates each year for our workforce – will be a key player in getting us there.

Tim Clare is a Lincoln attorney who serves on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

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