U plays waiting game as lawmakers finalize budget

Erin Ghere

For at least another week, University officials will wait on pins and needles for the state Legislature to hammer out the University’s two-year funding package.
And compared with past budget requests, University President Mark Yudof’s $198 million University funding proposal is reasonable, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president for budget and finance.
“I don’t think it’s an extravagant amount, and I think the governor treated us well,” he said.
Gov. Jesse Ventura recommended the Legislature grant $121 million of the University’s request.
The largest University request came in 1997 when the Legislature granted $187 million of former University President Nils Hasselmo’s $230 million request.
Most of the funding went toward faculty salary increases, according to the Office for Government Relations.
Some of the funding was also one-time money, Pfutzenreuter said. About $56 million was funding that was allotted for equipment and technology advances and is not recurring.
Every odd year, the University requests money from the Legislature for their spending throughout the following two-year period.
In the past decade, the Legislature hasn’t granted the University its full request.
The 1997 request of $230 million was a huge leap from the years before it when the University requested $35 million for 1991-93, $64 million for 1993-95 and $87 million for 1995-97.
“The increase was in part a sharper articulation of what the University needed and what direction we were going,” Pfutzenreuter said. “As a result, we had more confidence in our request.”
The percentage of the University’s request the Legislature granted also increased over that time.
In 1993, $27 million of the $64 million request was funded — only 43 percent.
By 1997, the Legislature granted 81 percent of the University’s request.
A possible reason for this jump in funding could be more available funds for the Legislature to allocate.
This biennium, the University’s budget has not been decided and is still in conference committee between the House and the Senate. It is scheduled to be completed near the end of this week.
The House has laid out a plan to fund $121 million of Yudof’s request, and the Senate has recommended funding $82 million.
The $39 million discrepancy between the chambers comes from their differing priorities.
The House put a high percentage of its funding into the different higher education institutions, while the Senate placed nearly $57 million of its funding into student financial aid and gave less to each institution.
The House only recommended $9 million for student financial aid.