By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: It was not a friendly crowd for Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki as he spoke of economic development at Western Nevada College.
The bleachers in Sarah Winnemucca Hall were packed with students and staff concerned about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $162 million reduction in state support for Nevada’s colleges and universities.
James Dean Leavitt, chairman of the Board of Regents, criticized the governor’s proposal. He said that Nevada’s higher education system has never been properly funded and that economic diversification should be coupled with diversifying revenue.
Leavitt had earlier called for tax increases to mitigate cuts to higher education.
“I’m not preaching to my audience right now, but the Legislature and the governor are making an unbelievably difficult decision,” Krolicki said in response to Leavitt. “…The best way to get out of these budget woes is to crank this economy and let it go. That’s what we need to do.”
Leavitt and the other dozen regents were gathered at Western Nevada College for a board meeting. The board is responsible for approving cuts like those drafted by UNLV and UNR earlier this week, as well as tuition increases.
Krolicki addressed ways universities can help create jobs during his speech to the board.
Apart from his job as lieutenant governor, Krolicki is the chairman of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. That means he works with higher education institutions to do things like commercialize research.
Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, played the conciliator after Leavitt and Krolicki had their back-and-forth.
“Brian [Krolick] has included NSHE in every conversation that has been had,” he said “…I think that the board has said exactly what it needs to say, but I would like to recognize a true partner who has been with us through every step of the way.”
Officially, Krolicki was supposed to talk only about economic development, but his ties to the governor and the proposed state budget could not be ignored.
The state budget weaved its way through everything the Regents talked about. Students exclusively addressed it during public comment. The hallways were alive with chatter about the proposed cuts; one young woman cried watching the testimony of Western Nevada College students whose program for the deaf could disappear with its funding.
The Board of Regents reconvenes at Western Nevada College tomorrow, when they plan to officially address the governor’s proposed budget.