For U lobbyists, dialogue frames funding

The University’s government relations team, like most lobbyists, focuses on educating and building relationships with state legislators.

University of Minnesota head of government relations Jason Rohloff and Minnesota Sen. Terri Bonoff discuss figures from the committee meeting earlier that morning on Tuesday April 1st, 2014 at the state Capitol.

University of Minnesota head of government relations Jason Rohloff and Minnesota Sen. Terri Bonoff discuss figures from the committee meeting earlier that morning on Tuesday April 1st, 2014 at the state Capitol.

Kia Farhang

On the morning of April 1, a Minnesota House of Representatives committee recommended less than a third of the funding University of Minnesota officials had asked for to maintain aging buildings.

But Jason Rohloff, who heads the school’s Office of Government and Community Relations, didn’t look worried.

“This is the beginning of a conversation,” he said.

The University spends about $1.3 million annually on lobbying state legislators, who dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in higher education funding.

That funding contracted from 2008 to 2013, but the most recent state budget increased funding for Minnesota universities and colleges. Lobbyists and lawmakers say they believe the state is primed to reinvest in state schools.

Meanwhile, the University’s lobbyists — like their counterparts across higher education and in the private sector — must maintain relationships with lawmakers while attempting to measure their own progress.

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