Where Ed MacKay sees benefits, Robbie Parsons sees bloat. Anything the University System of New Hampshire chancellor points to as efficient is quickly deemed excessive by the lawmaker.
The tug-of-war playing out at the Statehouse highlights both the national trend of declining state funding for higher education and the newly strained relationship between the New Hampshire Legislature and the state's public university system, which includes the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College.
Parsons, a Republican representative from Milton, is the sponsor of a bill that would eliminate MacKay's office and transfer the chancellor's duties to the volunteer chairman of the system's board of trustees. The bill also would reduce the size of the board from 27 to 21 and prohibit it from hiring more than 12 central administrative staff. The chancellor's office has 71 employees, 25 percent fewer than it had when MacKay took office in 2009.
But Parsons argues the chancellor's office hasn't shouldered its fair share of the burden since the Legislature cut state funding to the university system by 48 percent.