Schools key in Carlson’s spending plan

Tracy Ellingson

Gov. Arne Carlson designated education as his number one spending priority, but fell about $100 million short of the University’s requested increase.
The governor laid out his $20 billion 1998-99 spending plans in an open conference Thursday afternoon at the World Trade Center. The outline includes a $132 million total increase over the next two years for the University. In its request, the University had asked for $115.5 per year over the school’s annual base funding of $462.5 million.
“I was hoping that the funding that would be made available for higher education would be more than what the governor has put on the table,” said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, chairman of the House of Representatives Education Committee.
But the governor’s plan allocates 31 percent of the budget to education, including K-12 and higher education spending. That is the largest percentage designated to any state program.
“Our objective,” said Morrie Anderson, the governor’s chief of staff, who presented the spending proposal, “is to work with the Board of Regents and the new president in moving the University toward a top 10 research institution.”
Carlson has earmarked nearly $40 million of the proposed increase to go toward faculty recruitment and retention.
“We have to build top-notch faculty,” Anderson said. “And focus resources on strengthening of quality and ranking of academic programs and research programs — and that’s what our budget’s designed to do.”
University Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Marshak said he believes the governor sees education as an investment in the future of the state, particularly when funding for technological programs and facilities is integrated into its schools.
“I think he wants to leave a legacy for the state,” said Marshak about Carlson, who has said he will not be running for re-election when his term ends in 1998. “I admire him for that. My understanding is that … a large part of the legacy that he wants to leave is education, because he sees this as an investment for the future of the state.”
Marshak said the regents agree with the governor’s philosophy on the importance of the University to the state, and that they considered the school as an important investment for Minnesotans when drawing up the budget proposal.
“What the regents’ strategy was,” Marshak said, “was to lay out a biennial request to really meet the needs of the University … in order to serve the state and to really move the University, and thus move the state into the 21st century.
“You can’t build a great university,” Marshak added, “if you don’t compensate (the state’s residents), who are your major asset, fairly. You just can’t.”
Over the next six weeks, legislators will be talking with and listening to the University’s and other state schools’ administrators, staff members and students. They will try to decide how to budget state funds to best meet state schools’ needs. Legislators will receive a more detailed budget outline early next week; they were given the governor’s summary after the conference.
Rep. Carlson called Gov. Carlson’s proposal for increasing funding for the University an “inflationary adjustment.”
“On the one hand, that’s a plus,” Rep. Carlson said. “In the sense that in recent years, we haven’t met inflation. But the minus is that it doesn’t appear that there’s going to be a lot of room for improvement.”