House lays out higher ed omnibus bill

Provisions in the bill would permit alcohol sales in the new stadium and provide scholarships for middle-income students.

The House of RepresentativesâÄô higher education omnibus bill would give the University of Minnesota the same amount of funding as Gov. Tim Pawlenty would for the next biennium should it pass unchanged through the Legislature. Under the HouseâÄôs proposed plan, the University would receive more than $709 million in state funding each of the next two years, equal to the plan proposed by Pawlenty. Both Pawlenty and the House use more than $231 million in federal stimulus funds. But the House plan is dramatically different than the one proposed by a Senate higher education committee last week. The Senate would cut nearly $60 million from the UniversityâÄôs budget next biennium, and it would give less state support to the University in the 2012-13 biennium than the House. In 2012 and 2013, the House would plan to give $671.6 million to the University each year. PawlentyâÄôs plan would give $627.1 million, and the Senate would give $645.1 million, according to University calculations. âÄúThe House bill is a very good bill for the University of Minnesota,âÄù said University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter, pointing to the large amount of funding in the 2012-13 biennium. If both bills pass their respective branch of the Legislature, a conference committee will meet to rectify the differences between the bills. But budgetary changes were not the only differences between the bills. The HouseâÄôs version included provisions that would: – Bar the University from using state funding to pay for new administration positions or for administration salary increases. – Require bookstores at all state schools or universities to only sell apparel made in the United States. – Provide funding for a middle-income scholarship designated for University undergraduate students from families making between $60,000 and $100,000. – Require alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium to be extended to everyone of legal age and not just those in premium seating areas. The bill would also cap tuition increases at the University so that tuition for in-state resident undergraduates will not increase more than $300 per year. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said money from the stimulus funds would be used to buy down any possible increases beyond that, but that it could make for a bad situation in the 2012-13 budget period. âÄúThere are going to be some big [tuition] increases at public universities, or there are going to be some huge cuts, or there is going to be a combination of both unless this economy turns around,âÄù he said. Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, called the stimulus money âÄúa free passâÄù for the University. âÄúThe stimulus money gives the University of Minnesota two full years to try and restructure [tuition],âÄù Downey said. The House committee will meet tomorrow to consider more amendments to the bill before voting on it. The SenateâÄôs omnibus higher education bill will go before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. âÄîDevin Henry is a senior staff reporter.