Budget lower than U request

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal falls $13 million short of the University’s request.

by Brady Averill

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s higher-education budget recommendation is not enough, some House committee members said Monday.

At a House Higher Education Finance Committee hearing, Susan Heegaard, director of the state Higher Education Services Office, presented the governor’s budget recommendations. Committee members greeted the presentation with questions and some concern.

Pawlenty’s proposed budget for the University for the next two years is $1.22 billion. He recommended last week that the University receive an additional $113 million during the 2004-05 and 2006-07 school years. That falls $13 million short of the University’s request.

“The governor’s focus is on reform,” Heegaard said.

Pawlenty’s recommended budget for the University is to help it become a leader in research – both nationally and internationally, she said.

Though the governor’s two-year budget gives more money to higher education than it did two years ago, Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said he doesn’t think it reverses the damage done during the last session.

Heegaard said coming up with the governor’s higher-education budget recommendation was not an easy task.

Higher education in Minnesota is part of a bigger discussion, and less funding for higher education is not unique to the state, she said.

But Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said Minnesota is unique. In the past, it has given more to higher education.

“I don’t accept as an excuse ‘everybody else does it’ or ‘everybody else is in the same boat,’ ” he said.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said that while Pawlenty’s recommendation fulfills approximately 90 percent of the University’s request, he wouldn’t mind an improvement.

“I would still look for ways to do better,” he said.

If there are opportunities to help the University, he said, he will try to be supportive.

Carlson said he anticipated continued debate on the higher-education budget.

Heegaard also brought up Pawlenty’s proposal to change the way higher education is funded, a statement he made in his State of the State address two weeks ago. He suggested Colorado’s higher-education model, in which students receive vouchers for tuition.

“Colorado is just one example. It’s not our goal to be Colorado,” she said.

Heegaard also addressed Pawlenty’s recommended funding for a four-year higher-education institution in Rochester, Minn.

Pawlenty recommended $3.2 million for the project. Most of the money would pay for initial operating costs, with $200,000 going toward planning.

The University has an option to be part of a Rochester higher-education institution, Heegaard said. The governor has left the door open, she said.