U pleads for lower budget cuts

Let the higher education games begin. Just three days into the legislative session, University of Minnesota officials were at the State Capitol on Thursday to respond to Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs $20 million cut to the University’s current budget and plead for less severe cuts in the future. Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter outlined the UniversityâÄôs reaction to PawlentyâÄôs and other past budget reductions, including a $12.3 million cut for the current biennium last May and the budget problems brought on by the 2003 recession. Speaking before the Higher Education Budget and Policy Division, Pfutzenreuter said academic and support programs across the entire University system would be forced to reduce their operating budgets due to PawlentyâÄôs December cut. âÄúWeâÄôre going to address the $20 million through operating budget reductions now,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm being candid that our strategy is to focus on the operating budgets now.âÄù Some specific programs, such as the University and Mayo Clinic Partnership and ongoing mesothelioma research, would be excluded from those cuts. Pfutzenreuter also outlined the UniversityâÄôs reaction to the cut it received in 2003. âÄúNo one escaped budget cuts at the University back at that time,âÄù he said. Students assumed 46 percent of the cut that year through tuition increases, and faculty and staff carried another 15 percent of the load through salary freezes and other means. Pfutzenreuter said everyone should expect to share a similar burden this time around, though administration is trying to avoid the double-digit tuition increases inherited during that time. Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul and chair of the division, said ideally students and staff would take none of the brunt of the bad economy. âÄúI donâÄôt want students to have to carry any more of the load,âÄù she said. âÄúThereâÄôs no good answers and good decisions with this whole thing. I think the University made the decisions [in 2003] as best they could and it resulted in most of it being borne by students.âÄù