Budget request unlikely to be in full, lawmakers say

Two legislators from both parties said the University of MinnesotaâÄôs $141.2 million budget increase request is unlikely to be paid in full. On Friday, Bruininks himself admitted the budget request was a lofty one. âÄúItâÄôs up to the Legislature. ItâÄôs up to the governor to make some very difficult choices,âÄù he said to the Board of Regents . âÄúBut I donâÄôt think it serves the University well to be timid, to be reluctant to present our case and to present it in respectful and thoughtful ways.âÄù The $141.2 million request, the second-smallest in the last 10 years, includes funds for research , employee compensation and a middle-income scholarship. It comes with an annual 4.5 percent tuition increase for the 2010 and 2011 school years. âÄúI believe the University must present an honest and responsible biennial budget request that demonstrates our most pressing needs,âÄù Bruininks said in an e-mail acquired by the Daily to University faculty and staff on Monday. Rep. Tom Rukavina , DFL-Virginia, said the University and the rest of the state should expect less money than they are requesting this upcoming session. The UniversityâÄôs request is only slightly more than the one the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees will consider at its November meeting. The proposed request is for more than a $126 million increase. âÄúEverybody has a Christmas list, but that doesnâÄôt mean they get everything they wish for,âÄù Rukavina said. In 2003, the Legislature cut the UniversityâÄôs budget by more than $198 million , something Rukavina said he hopes to avoid this year. âÄúIâÄôm going to fight hard to see that our higher education systemâĦdonâÄôt take the whammy that they took back in the 2002-2003 session,âÄù he said. Tuition ties up lawmakers The tuition increase included with the UniversityâÄôs request has been a point of contention for both students and lawmakers. Dustin Norman , chairman of the student representatives to the Board of Regents , said he is concerned the University would increase the tuition more should it not get all the funds requested. On Friday, Norman told the Board of Regents he considered graduating students to be so far in debt that their degrees belonged to banks that gave those loans, not the students themselves. âÄúWe felt it was a time when student voices should definitely be heard and should have a comment and input,âÄù he said. Norman said the student representatives would work closely with the Regents to address any possible tuition hike beyond the one planned in the budget. University administration officials were unavailable for comment Monday, but University spokesman Dan Wolter said a larger tuition increase would be a possibility should the state reject some of the budget request. The 4.5 percent increase would be smaller than the 7.3 percent increase this year, and much lower than the double digit increases earlier this decade , but lawmakers are still concerned about the issue. Sen. Claire Robling , R-Jordan , said the planned increase is still too much. âÄúThe stateâÄôs not going to have money because the taxpayers arenâÄôt going to have money either,âÄù she said. âÄúAnd families wonâÄôt have money to pay tuition.âÄù Robling, the ranking minority member of the Higher Education Budget and Policy Division , said she thought an increase around two percent would be more reasonable. She also said the $141 million request is unlikely to be fulfilled. Rukavina, the chair of a House higher education finance board , said he hopes to add provisions to University funding intended to keep down tuition. âÄúWe could still sharpen the pencil and talk about the fact there were some pretty hefty hikes the past couple of years,âÄù he said.