Deficit compromise hits UConn with $6.5 million in state funding cuts

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, left, next to National Governors Association Winter Meeting Vice Chair, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, listens to President Barack Obama speak during a meeting with governors in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

HARTFORD — Legislators reached a bipartisan compromise Tuesday to close a $220 million gap in the state’s budget for the current fiscal year, but brought more cuts to the University of Connecticut in the process.

The proposal, which passed 33-3 in the Senate and 127-16 in the House, would cut more than $6.5 million from the university and its health center. These cuts would replace Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget rescissions announced on March 16, which would have cut $5.5 million on April 1.

Malloy is expected to sign the compromise plan and said during a press conference Tuesday that it “moves us in the right direction.”

“It marks, perhaps, the first time in a very, very long time that anything on the budget has been done on a bipartisan basis, going back multiple administrations,” Malloy said. “This is to be celebrated, I think, for a day, and then the hard work of the changes to the 2017 budget will be upon us.”

Under the compromise, the university would lose $4.72 million while the health center faces $1.8 million in cuts.

UConn officials have already enacted strict hiring policies to handle any cuts, which they anticipated, university spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said Friday. In an email Tuesday afternoon, Reitz did not address the specifics of the proposal, but said the university knows the new cuts are on the way.

“We’re currently reviewing the plan that legislators adopted and determining how best to adjust the university’s finances in a way that protects UConn’s academic enterprise,” Reitz said.

The plan calls for a $1.5 million cut in state funding for the university’s operating expenses. In addition, the university would have to give back another $3.18 million that has already been appropriated.

In total, the $4.68 million state funding cut for the university’s operating expenses is larger than the initial $3.86 million Malloy ordered in his budget rescissions.

The health center had its share of the cuts lessened in the compromise. The size of the cut to the health center’s operating expenses, when compared to Malloy’s proposal, dropped from $1.24 million to $750,000. However, the compromise calls for $1 million to be taken from the health center’s hospital insurance fund.

The plan reduces the size of the cut to Next Generation Connecticut from $191,447 to $41,667 and also includes $41,667 in cuts to Bioscience Connecticut and $1,097 to the Area Health Education Center. These are both lower than Malloy’s initial proposed rescissions.

In addition, the university and the health center would lose about $6,000 for workers’ compensation claims.

Overall, the compromise only makes $132 million in cuts to close the $220 million budget deficit. The remainder of the gap would be closed through $63 million in fund sweeps – which move unspent funds designated for specific uses to the general fund – and $25 million in transfers.

Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield, was one of the 16 legislators in the House who voted against the bill while Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, whose district includes the university, voted in favor of it.