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September 21, 2017

UConn pushing hard to avoid GOP budget cuts

PHOTO | Peter Morenus, UConn An aerial view of the UConn campus.

As UConn and Republican leaders do battle over what the university has called "unprecedented" proposed GOP budget cuts to the university, UConn has taken to Twitter with a #SaveUConn campaign.

The university’s all-out push to prevent steep funding cuts includes the Twitter hashtag, which evolved organically during the past week at about the same time the university decided to use it, said Stephanie Reitz, a UConn spokesperson.

UConn also has held faculty and student rallies on the subject and has been issuing press releases calling attention to specific cuts of more than $308 million over two years to both UConn and UConn Health if the Republican budget proposal is adopted.

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven disputes that number, saying the GOP budget plan would cut UConn funding by $244 million over two years.

In contrast to both, the Democratic budget plan proposes cutting UConn by $108 million over two years, UConn President Susan Herbst has said.

Fasano calls UConn’s advocacy against the GOP budget a “scare tactic.”

He said Herbst’s representation of the cuts is higher because of funding promised but not delivered to UConn in the 2017 budget. She also is including fringe benefits for pensions and health care for faculty and staff that are part of the approved union concessions deal, he said.

“There’s no interest like self-interest,” Fasano said in a phone interview. “No matter where you go to make cuts, there’s always someone who’s going to object and are out to protect their turf. I understand her job. UConn can absorb [the proposed GOP cuts], they can find efficiencies and work with the state of Connecticut during a rough time.”

Fasano also suggested the university could rely on its endowment, have alumni raise money or get federal money to supplement its budget.

Herbst said in an email that using 'donated funds' and 'federal grants' to replace state operating cuts would be illegal.

"What’s more, a university cannot obtain grants without scientists, and the Republican budget will decimate our science faculty," she said.

Fasano said he and Senate Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby will be meeting with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy about the Republican spending plan Friday at 10 a.m. Their Democratic counterparts will not be there; Malloy made the invitation, Fasano said.

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