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Saturday, January 15, 2000


UH seeks
autonomy, funds for
med school, Hilo

The president also says the
state must pay $6.4 million
for a 'payroll lag' that
never happened

By Susan Kreifels


University of Hawaii President Kenneth Mortimer says more autonomy and more money for the medical school and for improvements at UH-Hilo are high on his legislative wish list.

The university also is seeking a $6.4 million payroll debt that he says the state owes UH.

UH regents requested an extra $25.6 million over the proposed $278.3 million operating budget -- a list to be funded when revenues are available.

The list includes $3.6 million for restructuring the John A. Burns School of Medicine, which will absorb the school of public health.

Legislature 2000 The top fiscal issue, Mortimer said, is repaying $6.4 million in faculty salaries that the government has owed UH for two years. The money was part of the government's "payroll lag" plan to gain a one-time savings of $51 million by gradually delaying paychecks into the next fiscal year.

The UH faculty opposed the plan, won its battle in court, and UH had to pay the salaries even though the government held back the money.

"It's not our problem," Mortimer said. "The money was taken from us. This has to be resolved. They must be forced to pay the bill."

Mortimer also wants more autonomy in running UH.

He said money for the medical school was "absolutely crucial," as well as building infrastructure and strengthening programs at UH-Hilo to make it "capable of growth."

Manoa would get roughly more than half of the supplemental request, followed by the community colleges and UH-Hilo, he said.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has asked for $3.6 million in supplemental funds, focusing on engineering, business and the medical school, Mortimer said.

Rep. David Morihara, chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, agreed that resolving the payroll debt was a priority along with paying off UH legal bills -- $635,000 was requested by regents for the general counsel -- and repair and maintenance. Drastic budget cuts at UH through the 1990s have left the campuses in serious need of repair -- $5.2 million worth, according to the regents' supplemental budget.

The Library Management System would get $1.2 million. University libraries have seen serious budget cuts.

Morihara also wants more money at UH so it can "enhance its leverage" in reviving the state's economy.

Although there's not enough to cover the total $26.5 million, he sees flexibility this year in fulfilling some of UH's wishes as state revenues are not as tight. "Maybe we've turned the tide," he said.

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