UMN Student government leaders urge lawmakers to fulfill budget request

Presidents from all five system campuses delivered a letter to Gov. Tim Walz Friday after passing similar resolutions.

Gov. Tim Walz announces the state budget to legislators and media at the Minnesota Department of Revenue building on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 

Tony Saunders

Gov. Tim Walz announces the state budget to legislators and media at the Minnesota Department of Revenue building on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 

Isabella Murray

The University of Minnesota might see around a third or less of its biennial budget ask this legislative session, but not before student government representatives push for more. 

Resolutions passed last month by student governments on all five University campuses call for full funding for the school’s $87 million ask in Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s proposal, which currently funds around a third of the University’s request. The coordinated effort shows the needs of students amid potential tuition hikes and program cuts, student government leaders said. 

“We’re seeing this really dangerous decline in how much the state invests in public education, which really begs the question of … what does that do to the quality of our institution?” said Simran Mishra, president of the Minnesota Student Association located on the Twin Cities campus.

MSA, the Morris Campus Student Association, the University of Minnesota-Duluth Student Association, the Crookston Student Association and the Rochester Student Association all passed similar resolutions. The resolutions all state Walz’s current budget proposal is inadequate to maintain the “quality that has come to be expected from the institution.”

This collaboration is unique for student governments across campuses, said Christina Laridaen, MSA government and legislative affairs coordinator. 

“I’ve been asking around,” Laridaen said. “Basically nobody in the MSA office can remember a time when all five campuses have passed the same resolution. So we really wanted to make a statement.”

Efforts between the five campuses began earlier this year. Before the governor’s budget was proposed, student government members had already started calling lawmakers together to lobby for the University’s ask, Laridaen said.

This coordination made it easy for the five governing bodies to come together and write the resolution quickly, Laridaen said. It passed MSA forum the week following Walz’s reveal. 

Presidents from all five student associations and the Twin Cities campus’ two graduate student governments delivered a letter addressed to Walz on Friday, which included information from each resolution. 

“We really wanted this to be a student initiative, because we want to show that it impacts students, because tuition and on-campus resources are going to suffer if we don’t have the funding,” Laridaen said. 

Laridaen said while MSA would ideally like Walz to offer more money, they expect to push for the proposed $39.2 million and not any less. 

“One of the best outcomes that we can realistically expect is that the Legislature is going to give us $39.2 million,” she said. “It’s going to be pretty hard going forward to get any more than that, so this is just a statement.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have yet to put forward proposals for the University’s budget. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, minority leader of the House higher education committee, said students should instead focus on lobbying the Legislature. 

“The Legislature, the House and Senate, have to really develop their budget more so than the governor,” Nornes said. “The actual legislation that would make a difference would be both in the House and Senate.”

The resolution also contains language about Walz’s campaign promises to advocate for higher education. 

“As a former educator, Governor Walz has previously expressed a commitment to supporting and funding higher education,” the resolution read. “However, this budget proposal simply does not reflect that sentiment.”

But vice chair of the Senate higher education committee Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, said Walz’s past as an educator has little to do with the low budget proposal. 

“We have a lot of needs out there. … We’re trying to do a lot for a lot of different people in the state,” Draheim said. “We have our hands full.”