Committee approves MnSCU, U of M base funding reduction


A House committee has approved a bill that would reduce higher education funding by $185 million from its forecasted spending base in the next biennium.

Sponsored by Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), HF126 would reduce the forecasted General Fund base appropriation for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system by $47.92 million in each of the next two fiscal years, and the University of Minnesota by $44.6 million each fiscal year.

The base appropriation is currently $580.8 million for MnSCU and $578.4 million for the university. According to nonpartisan House Fiscal Analysis, the amounts would be a 7.6 percent forecasted base reduction for MnSCU and 7 percent for the university.

Approved Jan. 20 by the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee on an 8-7 vote, the bill awaits action by the House Ways and Means Committee. It has no Senate companion. Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) unsuccessfully moved to lay the bill over until it was better known how the change would affect individual campuses.

The cuts are part of a larger plan unveiled earlier this week by Republicans to close $1 billion of the states projected $6.2 billion budget deficit. The proposal also calls for $584 million in cuts to tax aids and credits (primarily to local governments) and $72 million to various health and human services programs.

University President Robert Bruininks expressed concern that of the first billion dollars Republicans want to cut, 18 percent of it is higher education. “I’m fearful what it means when we get to the larger part of the budget.” He said that large of a base budget cut would be “devastating,” but said the university would not respond heavily on the backs of students and their families.

“There’s nobody here that enjoys doing this, but it’s a responsibility we have in a difficult time,” Nornes said.