The University of Minnesota could receive a 13 percent cut in state funding when Gov. Tim Pawlenty uses his power of unallotment to balance the state’s budget.
The state faces a $6.1 billion budget shortfall in the next two year budget period and will use federal stimulus money to cut that number to $4.7 billion , but without a balanced budget, Pawlenty will cut state funding on his own to balance it.
The Republican Governor could cut the University’s budget by about $146 million over two years, which could result in a maximum of 13 percent tuition increases or job cuts of between 400 and 750 University employees, University President Robert Bruininks said before a legislative committee May 16.
The reduction estimates are extremes, as cuts will be split among the University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system , University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said.
The University will likely split cuts between tuition increases and job cuts, he said.
“The maximum [Pawlenty] could unallot us, because it’s tied in with federal stimulus requirements, is around $86 million,” Pfutzenreuter said. “It’s more likely to be around $73 million.”
The Legislative session ended in the early hours of May 19 without a budget deal between Pawlenty and the DFL-controlled Legislature. The governor – an ardent adversary of tax increases - vetoed a $1 billion tax bill that DFLers said would balance the budget.
Unallotment – a rarely used tool that entitles Pawlenty to decide who from and how much state funding to cut – will balance a $2.7 billion discrepancy between state spending and projected revenue in the 2010-11 budget years.
President Bruininks will submit his budget recommendations on June 12 to the University Board of Regents , who are responsible for voting on the proposed cuts.
Pawlenty’s action might not affect the 2009-10 budget, which Pfutzenreuter said he must submit by June 12 as well.
“I’m speculating, but I don’t think there will be an impact on the first year of the biennium,” he said. “I hope [Pawlenty] acts sooner rather than later so we can set up our budgets.”
In order for students to make a difference, students should voice their opinions to legislators, student representative to the Board of Regents, Jordan Bronston said
“Students should be contacting legislature and advocating for appropriations for continued federal funding for Pell grants and financial aid packages,” Bronston said. “As students, I think the number one thing we can do is voice our opinions.”
Pawlenty struck down $24 million in funding for a new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus during this Legislative session.
This is the second year in a row that the Legislature has passed and Pawlenty has vetoed Bell Museum funding. He vetoed most funding for new building projects from the state bonding bill, preserving funding for repair projects.
Bruininks and the Board of Regents will decide whether the University will request funding in future sessions. Regardless, the project’s planners will continue fundraising efforts, Bell Museum Director Susan Weller said.
“Most donors understand that when you are waiting for the state bonding that there will be delays due to politics,” Weller said. “Nobody predicted a major recession, economic meltdown … when we started fundraising.”
University officials are looking into how much it would cost to repair parts of the aging building where a water main broke around Christmas that could have destroyed an exhibit, Weller said.
“We could be patched up,” Weller said. “It’s not a long term solution to simply put some quick patches on.”
Bruininks asked Weller to estimate the cost of repairs to be the old building, should the University decide to pursue that route over bringing the bonding request to the Capitol in future sessions.
“It is awfully hard to raise money for a new building if you don’t know when or if it’s going to happen,” Weller said. “We need to take the ‘if’ part out of the equation to be successful.”