Regents plan budget request to Legislature

by Heather Fors

With a budget request of $1.28 billion approved Thursday, University regents went to the drawing board Friday to sketch a strategy to bring in the money from the state.
University President Mark Yudof said the strategies administrators used last year to win unusually high funding won’t work this year. The reason: Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura.
With a governor who marshalled the support of the state’s youth to help win the election, students will play a key part in winning Ventura’s support for the University, administrators projected.
The regents, along with Yudof and several other key administrators, gathered at the Hyatt Whitney Hotel in Minneapolis for the Board of Regents’ Fall Retreat. The retreats are informal meetings where administrators, dressed in casual khakis and sweaters, discuss issues concerning the state’s largest educational institution.
On Friday, they discussed many issues, including the improvement of undergraduate education and how the University fits into the future of the state’s economy.
Sandra Gardebring, vice president for institutional relations, discussed with regents a list of events and opportunities for lobbying the University’s billion-dollar budget. Along with road trips and the legislative breakfasts, the regents were encouraged to use their connections to the fullest.
“We’re all connected with some sort of organization or another and we can work that crowd,” said Regent Bob Bergland.
Coming from all angles, the diversity of the regents and their connections plays a tremendous role in the University’s success at the Legislature.
“To me, it’s all about communication and it’s all about building relationships,” said Regent Warren Larson.
Working closely with several county and local governments in northern Minnesota, Larson has connections to the governing bodies in those areas.
Rather than talking to them about the University’s needs, Larson first finds out about their interests and concerns; he connects their needs to the University once he’s gained their trust, he said.
Concentrating on specific outcomes of the proposed programs will be the University’s best way to approach this year’s Legislative session, Yudof said. Although goals are always a focus of funding requests, they will be stressed to a greater degree this year.
While student and alumni support played a key role in last year’s lobbying, getting students involved will be even more critical this year, Yudof said.
“We were all singing out the same hymn,” Larson said of last year’s lobbying. This year the University constituents will be even more eminent.
Many pollsters attribute a large share of Ventura’s electoral support to young people; officials are hoping that Ventura will want to maintain that good relationship.
“Students will have a tremendous influence with this governor,” Larson said. “He touched a voice that didn’t feel like it was being heard.”
“This governor loves young people,” he added.