Senator finds plan lacking

Brady Averill

The senator who represents the University area called Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s two-year budget recommendation “underwhelming” Thursday.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said Pawlenty’s $113 million proposed increase for the University is not enough after the institution received a $185 million cut two years ago. The funding increase would be for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

Pogemiller’s remark came after Susan Heegaard, Higher Education Services Office director, presented the governor’s recommended budget at a Senate Higher Education Budget Division Committee meeting.

Pogemiller referred to a statement Pawlenty had made, which was that people get what they pay for.

“With this kind of money, do we have lower-class institutions in Minnesota?” Pogemiller said.

Part of the focus of Pawlenty’s University budget recommendation is on biosciences and research, so the University can become an international leader in research.

Pogemiller said he asked if the recommended amount is sufficient for the University to be a world-class institution.

Heegaard said she wishes there would be more money for higher education. Given the resources, she said, Pawlenty did his best to find money for higher education.

Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said a high-ranking, respected University official told him the budget cuts the University received two years ago were the best thing that could have happened, because it helped the University learn how to spend money strategically.

Larson said he would not reveal the official’s name.

Heegaard addressed Pawlenty’s desire for Minnesota’s higher -education funding structure to be reviewed. She said she will likely present the results to the committee next year.

Mark Misukanis, Higher Education Services Office director of fiscal policy and research, mentioned Colorado’s structure, because it has been used often in the media.

Pawlenty said in his State of the State address that he found the way Colorado funds higher education – by giving students vouchers to help pay for tuition – “intriguing.”

Pogemiller said the press did not use the word “Colorado,” Pawlenty did.

Heegaard said Colorado is something to look at and learn from.