University receives $119

by Erin Ghere

Gov. Ventura signed the higher education and health and human services bills Tuesday evening.
As a result, the University will receive close to $119 million in funding over the next two years, though University President Mark Yudof originally requested $198 million. The bills, passed by the Legislature on May 15 and 17, were part of 30 bills Ventura signed Tuesday. He used his line-item veto power on nearly half of them.
Funding for Yudof’s five-tier budget proposal provides the University with $69 million for faculty and staff member pay raises, $15 million for undergraduate initiatives, $9 million for facility repairs and about $16 million for Academic Health Center programs. University officials were not available for comment.
Securing capital for the Academic Health Center proved to be the longest battle University officials fought this year, with decisions being made only hours before the 1999 legislative session ended May 17. The funding was eventually derived from endowments created from tobacco settlement monies.
The health center will receive interest from a $378 million health education endowment, which will fund the center for more than 20 years, legislators said. The interest will total $8 million annually for the health center, said Marty McDonough, representative for the University’s Office of State Relations.
Other provisions in the higher education bill put $15 million in funding into financial aid and allotted $103 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
Although the higher education bill was not highly controversial, the health and human services bill was hotly debated in both the House and the Senate, with comments centering on eight abortion provisions. Legislators narrowly avoided challenging Ventura’s threats that he would veto any legislation which included abortion language. House and Senate conferees chose to eliminate all provisions, upsetting some members and causing close votes in both chambers.