Carlson to review education bill

Joel Sawyerand

The University’s budget moved a step closer to completion Thursday as both the House and Senate adopted the state’s 1998-99 biennial higher education funding bill. The bill will go to Gov. Arne Carlson’s desk over the weekend.
The Senate approved the bill 58-0 and the House passed it 118-14. Passage of the bill was seen as a formality after the Legislature’s Higher Education Conference Committee approved the bill Tuesday.
However, the governor’s signature on the bill is not guaranteed, said Carlson’s press secretary Brian Dietz. By state law, the governor must sign or veto the legislation by Monday night or the bill automatically becomes law.
“He’ll take a close look at it,” Dietz said. “The bill is in the general parameters of the governor’s request. He is a bit concerned about the spending, though.”
The education bill allocates $2.376 billion for higher education in the state, $64 million more than Carlson requested. The University would receive $1.076 billion in funding, a $151 million increase over its last budget.
Legislators said they believe the bill provides enough funding to keep tuition raises within a 2.5 percent rate of inflation, while also providing increases in student financial aid, and widening the pool of students eligible for aid.
University President Nils Hasselmo said he is pleased with the funding increase.
“It’s truly outstanding — one of the largest in the University’s history,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the investment.”
Tom Reagan, chairman of the Board of Regents, also said he liked the final outcome of the bill.
“It’s so refreshing,” he said. “I’m so proud of our political supporters, our legislature, and our governor who apparently look like they’re going to return to us a budget –not all we’ve asked for, but much closer than any we’ve seen in the recent past.”
Last October, the University requested a $230 million increase over its 1996-97 two-year budget of $925 million.
If Carlson signs the bill, the Board of Regents must then decide how to distribute the budget throughout the University system.