Board approves $3.7 billion budget; 2 regents oppose it

Regents Laura Brod and Steve Sviggum said the budget should have made deeper cuts.

by Evelina Smirnitskaya

A year of bleak financial forecasts culminated in the University of Minnesota regentsâÄô approval of a 2012 budget that includes tuition hikes, program cuts and a wage freeze for University employees.

The only two dissenting votes came from new regents and former Republican legislators Steve Sviggum and Laura Brod.

The $3.7 billion budget has to make up for a gap of nearly $130 million left by reduced state funding and increased expenses. With no state funding bill approved at the Capitol yet, the proposed budget is based on the worst-case scenario for the University âÄî $520 million in funding from the state.

After an hour-long discussion, the board voted to approve the recommendations presented by President Bob Bruininks at a meeting earlier this month. Sviggum and Brod said it did not go far enough in solving UniversityâÄôs financial challenges.

âÄúI donâÄôt think weâÄôre doing enough, folks,âÄù Sviggum said during the hour-long discussion before the 9-2 vote.

Sviggum restated his belief that the University could make deeper cuts, especially within administrative units.

But a majority of the regents considered the proposed budget  the only available option, and Regent David McMillan called it âÄúthe least objectionable in the series of poor choices.âÄù

The budget also addresses any additional funding that could come from the state during a special legislative session.

Bruininks said one-third of the money would go to help students, though it would likely not happen until next year.

But Regent David Larson said any more money from the state is unlikely at this point.

âÄúThis is very short-sighted,âÄù he said.