ouse moves budget ahead

Brian Close

The University’s supplemental budget request and changes to the Board of Regents selection process passed the state House Thursday, clearing another hurdle toward final legislative passage.
The House approved $38.5 million of University President Mark Yudof’s $41.5 million supplemental budget package.
The supplemental budget allots money for faculty and staff raises and classroom improvements. It is separate from the $249 million capital request, which is for building renovation and construction.
“The University made a terrific presentation,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. “The House clearly listened.”
Over the past month, University administrators have aggressively pitched Yudof’s request to the Legislature.
Another portion of the broad bill, called the omnibus higher education finance bill, included changes to the regent selection process.
The plan calls for five regents from the metro area, five from outstate Minnesota, and two at-large regents, one of which would be a student.
Under the current system, one regent was chosen from each congressional district. They also selected four at-large regents, one which was a student.
The changes were suggested after last year’s selection process forced legislators to choose between two top quality candidates from the same district.
But Rep. Tom Osthoff, DFL-St. Paul said it would cause conflict between the metro area and other areas of the state by not considering population, which is higher in the metro area.
“You may remove politics, but you are going to start a geographic war,” he said.
The bill also reduces the number of panel members on the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, the group that recruits regent candidates.
Another part of the bill would give a $500 tax credit toward college tuition for students who have graduated from a Minnesota high school.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 104-26, with some opposition coming from House Republicans.
“If it helps students, it hurts taxpayers,” said House Minority Leader Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. “You can’t do both.”
Sviggum opposed the amount of higher education spending over the last few years, and said the legislature should be giving more money back to the taxpayers.
Having passed the House and Senate with different language, the bill must now go to a conference committee to work out an agreement between the two bodies.
“I think hopefully by the end of next week we will be in conference committee on this bill,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president for budget and finance.