UI President: government shutdown effects would be minimal

BY ZACHARY POUND | JUNE 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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With the deadline for the state budget looming next week, University of Iowa President Sally Mason said the university would not see any major change if a government shutdown does occur.

“We’re probably less directly affected by a government shutdown, largely because of the way we get our state appropriations,” Mason said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

Because the UI won’t receive its state funding until Aug. 1, Mason said the university has “a window of time” before any significant concern.

This comes after Gov. Terry Branstad called out Senate Democrats last month, when he claimed they abandoned the budget negotiations and “avoided the work Iowans sent them to do.”

“I am here,” Branstad said in a press release. “I will continue to work with House and Senate Republicans. I will also work with any other legislators willing to put together a responsible budget and do the work Iowans sent us here to do.”

But Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky testified before the Iowa House earlier this month, arguing against the ominous bill Republicans proposed to fund the government.

She said Republicans didn’t do enough in the proposal to “responsibly fund education.”

Under the current proposed budget, Iowa’s three state schools stand to lose 6 percent in appropriations in fiscal 2012.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said earlier this month he feels a shutdown isn’t an option, and legislators were “not far away from a solution to this problem.”

Mason said she still thinks Iowans highly value education, but the decreasing funding is making it difficult for the universities.

“I don’t hear from people that they don’t believe in the power of education,” Mason said. “I don’t think that’s really what’s driving some of this. What’s driving some of this is that there just isn’t enough money to go around. There just isn’t enough money to support everything that the state’s been supporting.”

Mason said Wednesday she is concerned with the potential problems a shutdown might cause faculty pay.

“I think our budget people are nervous because they have to try to meet payroll and make sure that all of the normal kinds of paperwork gets done on time,” she said. “That takes time when you’ve got a payroll as large as ours, but you know what, they’ve been good at doing it, and they’ll work overtime if they have to get it done. We’ll see how it works.”

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