UNLV president shamelessly misleads the public on budget cuts

If there were one message I could impart to those interested in Nevada's budget debate, it would be this: Don't be manipulated.

For the next four months, advocates for higher spending will do anything to scare you into believing that the modest budget reductions in Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget will harm something you hold dear.

Does it matter if they have to claim that people are dropping dead in the streets, or deceive you by using misleading facts? Apparently not. These individuals will say anything - anything - to scare you. And they will certainly try to deceive you.

So take all the scare stories you're going to hear with an enormous grain of salt and search out the truth.

Speaking of scare stories, consider how UNLV President Neal Smatresk shamelessly attempted to deceive the public last night on "Face to Face" regarding the scope of the governor's proposed budget reductions to higher education.

The video is after jump, and his statement starts at the 6:43 mark.

Neal Smatresk: Our current budget's $172 million. It would go down to $125 million. That's a huge reduction by any measure. To put that in perspective, in the last four years, we've had a $49.6 million budget reduction. Over the next two years, we take another $47.5 million budget reduction for a cumulative $97.1 million and 52, 52 percent of our budget gone in a six-year period.

Neal Smatresk: I estimate we lose a third to up to half of our whole programs if that cut actually goes through. [Emphasis added]

Ignoring the erroneous 52 percent figure, Smatresk is telling you that UNLV's current budget is $172 million, which is completely false.

UNLV's current operating budget (Fiscal Year 10) is $625,578,929! This means that the $47.5 million budget reduction, which Smatresk claims is "unimaginable," is less than 8 percent of UNLV's current budget.

(UNLV's total operating budget includes General Fund subsidies, tuition, self-supporting funds, and grants and contracts. Also, I don't know if the cut Smatresk cites is accurate.)

It also means that when Smatresk says, "Our current budget's $172 million," he's failing to include about $450 million in revenue. Let me repeat that: He's failing to include an additional $450 million that UNLV will spend this fiscal year.

And you don't just forget $450 million in a $625 million budget. You choose not to mention it in an effort to scare the general public - by setting aside the truth because it doesn't serve your purposes.

For some perspective, consider that UNLV's total operating budget in 2003 was $370,197,405.

Only $200 million more to spend than it had eight years ago? No wonder Smatresk says these cuts would "incite a reasonable amount of panic." (The $200 million figure is not adjusted for inflation or student growth.)

For more: Here is a spreadsheet of total higher education spending in Nevada from Fiscal Year 2000 to Fiscal Year 2010, as compiled by Regent Ron Knecht from NSHE data.

Video of Smatresk's remarks is after the jump.

Smatresk remarks from above are at the 6:43 mark.

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