Officials play waiting game on U’s budget

Heather Fors

Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura’s signature has been sought after since he became a celebrity as a professional wrestler. But for the University, the value of his autograph soared to $1.29 billion Wednesday.
Next year, Ventura will have to sign the University’s biennial budget request, which is the formal request to the state for money to run the University for the next two years. While approval next week of the University’s request by the Board of Regents is virtually a shoo-in, recent elections have created more questionable circumstances in the state.
Ventura’s stance on funding for the University has been anything but solid; several times, the governor-elect has mentioned increased funding for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which does not include the University of Minnesota.
“I don’t think anybody knows for sure the governor’s core values or his emphasis,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president of Budget and Finance.
Despite the unexpected turn in governorship, University administrators said they will not change the request.
“It’s like ‘Star Trek,'” Pfutzenreuter said. “We’re exploring the unknown here.”
Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost, said officials believe the budget is a straightforward and honest request to fund what the University needs at this time.
Officials are looking forward to educating the governor about the University and its vitality to the state’s education and economics.
“We’re going to be in a real education mode for the first year,” said Regent Jessica Phillips.
At the same time, officials are looking at the addition of the Reform Party to the state capitol as a chance to bring in more diverse opinions. Hopefully these opinions might help bring about change, Pfutzenreuter said.
When a group of people make decisions rather than an individual, better solutions arise, he said.
The combination of a Republican-dominated House, a Democrat-ruled Senate and a Reform Party governor means the capitol surely will be diverse in the next four years, he said.
University President Mark Yudof is hopeful that all sides will support the University; in the past, Democrats and Republicans have shown support for the school’s financial needs.
With Ventura’s reputation of being a genuine, down-to-earth guy, Yudof is optimistic that the governor-elect will be just as understanding as the Legislature. At the same time, Yudof said he’s not ready to act on assumptions about the new state government:
“It’s just too early to tell.”