Ventura advises reduced funding

by Erin Ghere

Gov. Jesse Ventura shocked University officials Friday when he said he would only support $54 million of the University’s $134.3 million request during the 2000 legislative session.
Ventura’s recommendations will be taken into consideration by legislators as they decide how much to allocate to the University.
The University will not know until mid-May how much money it will actually receive, after legislators pass their higher education finance bills and Ventura makes final the approval.
University officials received word of Ventura’s plan Thursday evening, said Sandra Gardebring, vice president of institutional relations.
“We believed we had reached a good understanding with the governor,” she said. “His action really seemed inconsistent with the way he has acted when he has visited the campus.”
Gardebring said University officials were surprised and disappointed by Ventura’s budget recommendations.
Others were as well.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, released a statement Friday calling Ventura’s budget “wholly inadequate and completely ignoring Greater Minnesota’s higher education needs.” Stumpf is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Finance Committee.
“There is no way his higher education proposal can pass through the Senate,” Stumpf added.
Ventura has frequently said he would only put his weight behind projects that benefit the state as a whole. He used this reasoning to shoot down several University requests.
Of the school’s numerous building projects, Ventura supported only two: $35 million for phase two of the Molecular and Cellular Biology building, and $10 million for a new Microbial and Plant Genomics building on the St. Paul campus. The governor said he would approve $9 million for general University building projects.
Not included in Ventura’s recommendations is spending for a new, $21 million Art Building on the West Bank and renovation of plant-growth facilities on the St. Paul campus. Additionally, funding for building projects on the Morris, Duluth and Crookston campuses didn’t win his favor, including a new Bulldog Sports Center at University of Minnesota-Duluth for the women’s hockey team.
Lastly, Ventura did not recommend funding for statewide repairs to heed code requirements or for growth in statewide research and outreach centers.
He did recommend $30 million for repairs to Minnesota state college and university facilities.
Gardebring said the University will lobby legislators to obtain its original funding request.
Much of what was asked for around the state would have been financed by bonding or borrowing. The governor recommended borrowing $400 million in total, including $58 million for a new laboratory and office for the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“For far too long we have looked at bonding as a way to make every local project happen,” Ventura said, adding that he wants to “get control” of state borrowing and curtail the issuing of bonds to finance state spending.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Erin Ghere covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.