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The Minnesota Daily

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Senate fails to pass higher education bill

The University of Minnesota was set to receive $3 million of the $9.25 billion budget surplus in a bill that was tabled by the Senate.
Image by Alice Bennett
Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law on Thursday.

The omnibus higher education bill that included $3 million for the University of Minnesota passed the House on May 20, but failed to come to a vote in the Senate before the end of the legislative session on May 23.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would grant $20 million to Minnesota higher education, taken from the state’s record-breaking budget surplus of $9.25 billion. Unless a special session is called, the bill will not come to a vote and no funding will be granted until next year’s session.

The University originally requested $936 million for investments such as a new chemistry building and security upgrades. Of the $3 million granted, $2 million would go to the Natural Resources Research Institute and $1 million would go to the Promise Scholarship Program.

Vice Chair of the University’s Board of Regents Steve Sviggum said he was not expecting the legislature to grant the University’s full request but was hoping for a larger investment.

“It was needed to serve our mission as a University of research and education,” Sviggum said. “[The legislature] need[s] to support performance, and I think the University’s performance has warranted some additional investments.”

The University usually submits budget requests during odd-numbered years, but the budget surplus presented the opportunity for regents to request more funding this year.

Some representatives said the funding was not as great as they had hoped. Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL) said the legislature has been “systematically underinvesting” in the University for years.

“That cannot continue and have higher education be affordable,” Klevorn said. “We have to meet our students where they are.”

In the House debate over the bill, Rep. Jon Koznick (R) said he did not support the bill because it failed to make college more affordable for all students. He said he would like to “apologize” to University students who may face a 3.5% tuition increase next fall.

“Never was it a consideration to help freeze tuition,” Koznick said during the meeting. “We started out with misplaced priorities, and we need to have a tax agreement for long term permanent tax reform.”

The higher education bill was not the only omnibus spending bill that failed to pass by the May 23 deadline. The bipartisan agreement for spending the budget surplus included $4 billion in tax relief and $4 billion for new spending, but neither the tax bills nor most spending bills made it over the finish line.

Health and human services, E-12 education and public safety are among the omnibus spending bills that will not be passed unless government leaders call a special session.

Chair of the Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL) said she does not believe a special session will be called unless a deal is struck among Democrat and Republican leaders to pass both the tax bill and the spending bills.

Sviggum said he believed it is unlikely that legislators would reconvene for a special session unless an agreement was made “very soon.”

“With the money we had, we think we made some good investments,” Bernardy said. “We came up with a compromise bill, and unfortunately [Republican senators] didn’t see the value of investing in our students and killed it.”

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