Friday, January 30, 2009

Budget announcement, reaction, auditing and access

Governor recommends $146 million cut to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system

Gov. Tim Pawlenty presented his budget this week with key principles in mind: balance the budget, fund priorities in order of importance, strategically position Minnesota for success in a changing world, enhance and expand pay for performance, and do not increase burdens by raising taxes.

For higher education, a total reduction of $312.7 million was proposed. This includes a 10 percent decrease over the total higher education base budget. The governor is recommending a reduction to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities of $146 million, a 10.7 percent reduction. The University of Minnesota is reduced $151 million in the proposal. The governor also recommends both the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota institute firm caps on tuition increases to ensure the budget decisions do not harm students.

Of the $4.8 billion budget deficit, the governor's budget includes $2.5 billion in cuts and savings. The governor included a $920 million placeholder in federal stimulus dollars and nearly $1 billion in tobacco appropriation bonds. Under the governor's proposal, K-12 education would see an increase with a focus on Q-Comp and other pay-for-performance initiatives. There are accounting shifts in the aid payments to schools that temporarily will save the state nearly $1.3 billion. The governor’s budget also included corporate tax cuts, which he said are important to attract business to the state.

You may find further details here.

Pawlenty discussed his budget recommendations on Minnesota Public Radio and said his proposal likely will need to change because the economy has continued to deteriorate. It is likely to get worse with the February economic forecast. Pawlenty said he also is expecting to get more federal dollars in the economic stimulus package than his budget accounts for, so his budget may have to be adjusted. The governor said the state needs to tighten its belt just like everyone else; he does not believe it is a good idea to raise taxes in this type of economic environment. In regard to his proposal to cut corporate taxes, the governor said it's important because the state has to strategically reposition itself to be more competitive in the future and attract businesses. He said programs, such as health care are growing so fast that they need to be slowed down in order to sustain them. Minnesota is a high-spending, high-tax state, he said, and at some point it needs to learn to live within its means.

In regards to the tuition cap proposal, Pawlenty said he believes it will force systems to manage the goal of keeping tuition increases reasonable and keep budget challenges from being balanced on the backs of students. He said he left the cap open-ended but would like it to be modest and close to the rate of inflation. Pawlenty did say he hopes higher education will implement a salary freeze and to stop trying to do everything everywhere, but rather prioritize.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, spoke about the state's budget situation and Pawlenty's proposed corporate tax cuts. Kelliher said the state's focus should be on getting out of the budget deficit, not digging the state further into debt. Kelliher said tax cuts will not solve the immediate problem. Kelliher also said the state is not on the right path for economic development. One of the things the state needs to do, she said, is make strategic developments in higher education. She said she would like higher education and K-12 to tell lawmakers what their needs are and what it's going to take to meet their goals. She has developed an open comments page for the public share ideas with legislators, located at The Senate has a similar page, at Kelliher added that the state may not be able to help this session, but lawmakers would like to know what it will take to get there. The speaker also urged people to be respectful of the process between management and bargaining units when it comes to state employee salaries. Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said the governor's budget is the blueprint document for how they're going to balance the budget, and DFL leadership will first look for areas of agreement.

System reacts to budget cuts

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system testified at the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy committee this week on the $191 million cut to the system in 2003, the current fiscal year unallotment of $20 million and what the system is facing now: Gov. Pawlenty’s proposed cut of $146 million. Trustee Tom Renier told committee members the system is sobered by the size of the state budget deficit. He said, "Our presidents are used to making tough decisions, and for the past several months they have been engaged in planning for a variety of budget scenarios." Renier continued, "As a board, we intend to move thoughtfully and to make sure we have all the information we need to make decisions that will be in the best interest of our students and of the state of Minnesota."

Chancellor James McCormick testified that he understands the difficult decisions ahead for lawmakers, but he believes it is important to remember that higher education is the key to economic recovery. McCormick said: "Our colleges and universities are the place where laid-off workers will turn to learn new skills for new jobs. Our colleges and universities offer everything from short-term programs to associate, bachelor’s and graduate degree programs."

Laura King, vice chancellor and chief financial officer, reiterated the three key principles the system will follow when making budget decisions: Choices will be made in a way that best serves students; the system will take into account how to serve the economic development needs of the state and its communities; and will take a multiyear approach, positioning the system for long-term financial viability. King laid out a variety of potential consequences to the governor’s proposed 10.7 percent budget reduction for the system, including higher tuition rates, reduced course offerings, enrollment caps and reduced student services. King said none of the options represented the actions the system would take nor should they be viewed as exclusive of one another. King said: “It is probable that we would apply a combination of all or most of the following tools should we be required to absorb such a significant reduction. But they do illustrate the magnitude of what we are facing.”

Presidents Richard Davenport of Minnesota State University, Mankato and Ann Wynia of North Hennepin Community College discussed the impact the cuts would have on their institutions. Davenport said his institution already is preparing for cuts by eliminating programs, leaving staff positions vacant and even moving some classes to a local movie theater to allow for more students per class. Wynia added that colleges are serving many first-generation college students. She said the system is finding ways to support students and improve retention even with the budget challenges.

Auditing commended

Earlier this week, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities internal audit model was highlighted as an example to follow. Laura King, vice chancellor and CFO, testified about how internal controls are managed at the system, and John Asmussen, executive director for internal audit, testified about the essential elements of an effective internal auditing practice. Asmussen said strong support from the governing board and the chancellor are important to having effective internal controls and internal auditing.

Committee members also learned about how internal controls and internal auditing could be shored up in the Executive Branch. Asmussen suggested that the governor have a reporting channel in the Executive Branch to ensure that known problems are fixed with internal controls, including timely resolution of audit findings. The committee is looking at models of internal control for state government.

Access is a priority of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

The message that access is a priority of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities was conveyed to the Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Committee this week. In 2007, the Legislature awarded the system money to increase access for first-generation, low-income and minority students, those traditionally underrepresented in higher education. “As we enable these students, we are going to have a world-class workforce in Minnesota,” said Chancellor McCormick.

Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, discussed the system's goals for increased enrollment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented populations. She said the four main goals are increased access and opportunity, the promotion and measurement of high-quality learning programs and services, enhancement of the economic competitiveness of the state and its regions, and innovation for current and future educational needs.

Whitney Harris, executive director of multiculturalism, said the state should be mindful of recruiting new students, especially as the demographics change. He said a focus group showed that students in the underrepresented categories said their parents did not know how to help them, they lacked role models within their communities, and they did not know how to access financial aid. He described the successful Super Weekend: Last week, top system officials went to neighborhoods and brought college information to where potential and current students are, Harris said.

President Donovan Schwichtenberg of Saint Paul College shared the success of the Power of You program, which allows high school graduates of Minneapolis and St. Paul schools to attend college for free at Saint Paul College , Minneapolis Community and Technical College, or Metropolitan State University if they meet certain criteria. Schwichtenberg said that the program has nearly doubled enrollment for first-generation and minority students. He also said the program has increased enrollment, retention and graduation rates among this cohort.

Also testifying was Louis Mendoza with the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota. Mendoza spoke about the university's efforts to recruit and integrate students from underserved populations. “The different programs implemented at the university work to foster a culture of belonging,” said Mendoza. Students involved in the multicultural programs take classes together, are paired with mentors and are involved in tutoring programs.

Another program illustrated to committee members is the Get Ready Program. Director of Community Outreach Mary Lou Dresbach with the Office of Higher Education said it is an early college awareness program targeted to lower-income students and students of color, primarily funded through a federal grant. The program is in 11 schools throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis and the work begins with students in fourth grade, as well as teachers and counselors.

Student organizations hold regional events

The Minnesota State University Student Association and the Minnesota State College Student Association will be holding regional media events on the state university campuses. The event are aimed at promoting discussions about higher education and to explain the importance colleges and universities play in the economic recovery. Below are details about each event. For more information on the events, you may contact Jason Fossum at 651-297-5877 or

Date: Thursday, February 5Time: Noon - 1 p.m. (Press Conference) Rally and Community Event 4 p.m.Location: Bemidji State CampusOther Details: Press conference followed by all night camping event.

Date: Tuesday February 10Time: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.Location: SMSU Student Center Other Details: Press Conference followed by rally on campus
Theme: Buck Tuition

St. Cloud:
Date: Wednesday February 11Time: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Location: SCSU CampusOther Details: Press Conference followed by rally on campus
Theme: The Game of Student Life

Date: Thursday February 12Time: 3 p.m.-5 p.m.Location: Minnesota State University, Mankato CampusOther Details: Press Conference followed by rally event on campus
Other Details: Theme: Hope for Higher Education

Date: Thursday February 12 Time: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Location: MSUM CampusOther Details: Press Conference followed by rally
Theme: Price is Right

Date: Friday February 13Time: Noon -2 p.m. Location: WSU Student UnionOther Details: Press Conference followed by outdoor rally
Theme: Crashed Economy)

Federal Update

Economic Stimulus package
Along party lines with a vote of 244-188 (11 Democrats joined with Republicans to oppose the bill), the House passed an economic stimulus package Wednesday evening. See the vote tally at

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee released a statement of highlights from the proposed Senate Bill to stimulate the economy on Tuesday. The Senate has not voted on its overall bill. A comparison of both bills is available by emailing

Friday, January 23, 2009

MnSCU Capital request, online learning, financial aid discussed this week

Legislative Update
January 23, 2009

State Update
System proposes $117 million in capital projects
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota discussed the progress of capital projects from the 2008 bonding bill, as well as potential capital projects for a 2009 bill with the House Capital Investment committee this week. There has been no word yet whether a bonding bill is certain this session, but committee members are looking for "shovel-ready" projects to fund quickly to help put people back to work. Included in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities request of $117 million is $50 million in HEAPR, which includes roof replacements, systems improvements, life and fire safety upgrades, elevator code compliance projects and infrastructure renewal projects all across the system. Chancellor James McCormick told committee members that every college and university in the system will benefit from these projects.

Also part of the request are the five capital projects vetoed in 2008 that total $40 million, and four capital projects partially funded in 2008 for $27 million. The vetoed projects are North Hennepin Community College’s business and technology addition and renovation; Lake Superior College’s health science center addition; Metropolitan State University’s classroom center addition and Mesabi Range Community and Technical College’s shop space addition and renovation, all of which can be bid in 30 days. Biddable in seven months are the classroom renovations on seven campuses; they are at Brainerd, Wadena, Moorhead, Pipestone, Thief River Falls, Pine City and Rochester. The four partially funded projects are the learning resource center renovation at Hennepin Technical College; field house renovation at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington; science lab renovations at Southwest Minnesota State University; and the allied health center renovation at St. Cloud Technical College. These four projects can be bid in three to eight months.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Al Johnson told lawmakers the projects would put 1,500 people to work in construction and related jobs. Committee members expressed interest in projects that can be bid as soon as possible with fast execution.

The University of Minnesota’s capital budget request for 2009 includes $35 million for asset preservation and $39.5 million for the Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus. The Bell Museum was also a casualty of Gov. Pawlenty’s vetoes last year.

Senators receive an education in online learning
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard more about online learning this week from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Capella University, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Susan Heegaard, director of the Office of Higher Education, said online learning offers increased access and opportunities for students, and students are demanding more online course offerings. In addition, Heegaard spoke about the governor’s proposal to have 25 percent of the courses at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota online by 2015.

Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor of academic and student affairs at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, said credits earned through online courses have nearly tripled in the past five years and the number of students participating in online education has increased 160 percent in that same period. Baer said other areas of Web-enabled course delivery are growing as fast as online learning. In the future, Baer said, there will be greater integration of services for students, more program development in high-demand fields, more flexible scheduling options, additional resources for faculty teaching online and increases in access and affordability. She said some of the advantages of online learning include easy access to learning, the opportunity for learning at any time, convenience, flexibility and efficiency. However, Baer also cited some disadvantages to online, such as the predominance of independent work over class attendance and participation, the dependence on text-based learning materials, and more sporadic interaction with other students and instructors.

Bemidji State University Professor Barbara Bridges and students Brendan Babcock and Jill Hentges spoke about their experience with Bemidji’s K-8 elementary teacher licensure program. Bridges said the program is a combination of classes conducted in a classroom and online learning. Both Babcock and Hentges said the online program is exceeding their expectations and allowing them to attend school while still working and caring for family.

Chris Cassirer, president of Capella University, outlined Capella’s focus on the ways online delivery and academic model produces competency-based, assessment-driven, performance-measured results. Tom Sullivan, vice president and provost at the University of Minnesota, also spoke on the development of online learning at the university.

A more in-depth look at financial aid
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division learned more about how financial aid works this week. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education explained the different financial aid sources and how much aid was awarded for each source. In fiscal year 2007, $864 million was awarded to students attending Minnesota institutions. Of this amount, $205 million was awarded in federal need-based Pell grants and other federal grants, and $158 million was awarded in Minnesota state grants. The largest amount awarded to students, $416 million, was through institution grants and scholarships.

Lending expertise to the discussion were financial aid experts from each higher education system: Peter Zetterburg with the University of Minnesota, Kathy Ruby with St. Olaf College and Mike Lopez with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Each panel member was asked to discuss the role and importance of the state grant program at their institution or system. Lopez told committee members that student debt has increased dramatically over the years, and all three panelists agreed that without the state grant program, students would be borrowing even more than they are currently.

Chair Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the committee will form a smaller subcommittee to look at the issue of financial aid in more depth. You may learn more about the Minnesota state grant program by visiting the Office of Higher Education Web site here.

Governor proposes budget next week
Gov. Pawlenty will announce his budget recommendation Tuesday to solve the $4.8 billion deficit. When the next economic forecast is released the end of February, many expect the deficit number to grow to as much as $7 billion. If this happens, the governor will propose a supplemental budget addressing the larger deficit. DFL leaders are hoping for federal aid to help with the deficit, but the federal stimulus package is still in the early stages of formation. Once the governor releases his budget recommendation, the House and Senate will work on crafting their respective bills. Stay tuned.

Susan Heegaard to lead Bush Foundation Education Achievement Team
The Bush Foundation reports that Susan Heegaard, the current director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, will join the Bush Foundation in March to lead its efforts to increase educational achievement in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. As vice president and educational achievement team leader, Heegaard will pursue the foundation’s goal that by 2018, 50 percent more students, from prekindergarten through college, are on track to earn a degree after high school and disparities among diverse student groups are eliminated. The foundation’s key strategy for achieving this goal will be to create 25,000 new and effective teachers over the next decade. Director of Fiscal Policy and Research Mark Misukanis will serve as the acting director of the Office of Higher Education until a permanent replacement is announced.

Federal Update
Changes for higher education
With the swearing-in of a new president this week also comes change. During his inaugural address, President Barack Obama said there are transformations on the horizon for higher education. He emphasized green technology and jobs. "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories," he said. "And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age." You may find the text of the president’s speech here.

U.S. House seeks to stimulate the economy
The U.S. House of Representatives’ stimulus package proposes funding to states to address shortfalls in critical education programs at all levels: elementary, secondary and postsecondary. The proposed legislation calls on governors to "provide the amount of funds to public institutions in the state that is needed to restore state support for postsecondary education to the fiscal year 2008 level." The bill calls for investments in higher education renovation and modernization, including technology upgrades and energy efficiency improvements, to be distributed to states in proportion to their share of full-time undergraduates. The funds are to be designated for health and safety repairs, facility modifications to provide access for disabled students and educational technology infrastructure upgrades as well as energy efficiency projects, along with grants for the construction of science and research buildings at colleges and other research organizations.

The proposal also includes Pell grant increases, more funding for federal work study and an increase lending in student loans. Under the House plan, funding also would be provided for science and technology initiatives with a strong focus on alternative and renewable energy development and energy efficiency. There are also provisions to increase broadband in rural areas and to provide funding for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

The House bill will be debated in the coming weeks. The full text of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" can be viewed here.

Minnesota represented on federal House Committee on the Budget
Congresswoman Betty McCollum from St. Paul recently was appointed to the U.S. House Committee on the Budget. The committee will work with the Senate and President Barack Obama to reconcile a budget to guide the nation. Upon her appointment, McCollum said, "The financial crisis facing Washington threatens our country’s security and our children’s future. It is time for responsible action and disciplined decision making to return Washington to fiscal health." Congresswoman McCollum is also a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Lumina Foundation provides recommendations to Obama
In a recent memo to the Obama presidential transition team, the Lumina Foundation for Education outlined four broad policy strategies: 1) Make human capital development a cornerstone of U.S. economic policy: with postsecondary education the nation's workforce development system and expansion of adult learning opportunities; 2) Assure every child is prepared for success in postsecondary education: alignment of standards between K-12 and postsecondary education every state and by 8th grade, providing all children and families with information needed to plan for college success; 3) Define student outcomes for postsecondary education, including expectations for both completion and learning: foster the development of the Collegiate Learning Assessment, Voluntary System of Accountability, and other assessments of higher education learning, explore the lessons of the Bologna Process and other international efforts to improve higher education and include data on outcomes in national postsecondary data systems; and 4) Approach affordability in new ways: dramatically simplify financial aid, apply tax policy to benefit low-income students, such as progressive 529 plans, and improve higher education productivity, particularly by improving data on costs and results. You may read the entire memo here.

Here's What's Happening at the Capitol:
This schedule shows all meetings that we are aware of at the time of publication that MAY have an impact on the system. This schedule may change. Please watch the House and Senate schedules posted on the Legislature web site (

Monday, January 26
11:00 AM (televised live)
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
Senate Committee on Business, Industry and Jobs
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. James P. Metzen
Agenda: Governor's Workforce Development Council reports.

1:00 PM (televised live)
House in Session

2:45 PM
Joint Committee: House Taxes and K-12 Education Finance
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Ann Lenczewski, Rep. Mindy Greiling
Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)
(1) Presentation by the Office of the Legislative Auditor
(2) Presentation by Department of Education
(3) Testimony of public school officials

Tuesday, January 27
8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy Committee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: Presentation on college and career readiness with Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, Inc.

11:15 AM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: University of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: Site visit to University Of Minnesota

11:30 AM
Gov. Pawlenty announces budget recommendations

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Representative Tom Rukavina
Agenda: University of Minnesota student and faculty testimony

2:45 PM
House K-12 Education Finance Division
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mindy Greiling
Agenda: Presentation of Governor's education budget proposal

2:45 PM
House State Government Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Phyllis Kahn
Agenda: MnSCU’s experience with internal controls and internal auditing
Additional testimony TBA

Wednesday, January 28
8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy Committee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: TBD

8:30 AM
Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. LeRoy A. Stumpf
Agenda: College and Career Readiness Presentation

10:30 AM
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Presentation by Governor's Workforce Development Council on its 2008 Policy Advisory: Preparing Minnesota's Workforce for Tomorrow's Economy

6:00 PM
Joint Committee: House Finance & Ways and Means Committees
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Lyndon Carlson, Rep. Loren Solberg
Agenda: Presentation of Governor Pawlenty's FY10-11 budget recommendations

Thursday, January 29
8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy Committee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: TBD

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: To be announced.

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Representative Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities fiscal profile

2:45 PM
House Capital Investment Finance Division
Room: Basement Hearing Room
Chair: Rep. Alice Hausman
Agenda: Legislative Auditor's Report on General Obligation Bond Expenditures,
Internal Control and Compliance Audit

Tuesday, February 3
11:15 AM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: Site Visit to St. Thomas University

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Representative Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities student and faculty testimony

Thursday, February 5
12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: To be announced.

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 12 - 16, 2009 Week in Review

Governor Pawlenty delivers state of the state address
Gov. Tim Pawlenty addressed the legislative body this week by reminding lawmakers that the challenges the state is facing are the worst we have seen in a long time. Pawlenty said, “Let’s give Minnesotans confidence” that leaders will address these challenges. After the speech, legislative leaders said they expect to work cooperatively with the governor to accomplish that goal.

Online, tuition caps, salary freezes, jobs and education reform were all focuses of the governor’s state-of-the-state address. “It’s time our colleges and universities move more aggressively to deliver more of their courses online,” Pawlenty said. He praised the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for accepting the challenge to deliver 25 percent of credits online by 2015. The governor also recommended a cap on tuition. “Otherwise, the necessary changes in higher education we will make this session will fall too heavily on students and their families.” Pawlenty did not specifically mention what the tuition cap would be. As part of the solution to the state’s budget deficit, the governor also called for a two-year wage freeze on all state workers to minimize layoffs.

Other points of the address included job growth and primary education reform. Acknowledging that the state is facing a significant number of job losses, Pawlenty proposed that Minnesota grow jobs by offering tax breaks to businesses. In K-12 education, his two focuses were increasing the Q-comp pay for high achieving teachers across the state of Minnesota and making teachers more prepared for their jobs. “We have minimum requirements for pharmacists, dentists, engineers and just about every other profession,” he said. “We should have minimum entrance standards for people who do our most important job, educating our children.”

The governor will announce his budget recommendations Jan. 27. It is likely some of the ideas presented in this speech will be represented in his budget proposal. The Legislature then will craft a House and Senate budget. The legislative session wraps up May 18, which gives lawmakers only four months to solve the budget problem.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said: “The House and Senate will continue to focus on building our economy by helping to create and retain jobs while streamlining government. We look forward to seeing the governor's budget later this month and getting public input so we can get a more complete view of how his vision for the state will affect people.”

You may find the governor’s speech here.

Senate Web site available for public to provide budget solution ideas
As reported last week, the House of Representatives has a Web site available to the public to suggest budget-solving suggestions to lawmakers here. As of last week, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the site had received more than 750 public comments. This week, the Senate launched a new Web site to provide state budget information and gather ideas from Minnesotans to aid legislators as they work to solve the budget deficit. The Web site can be found here.

Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said he believes the Web page will be a great benefit to legislators as they try to solve the state’s $4.8 billion budget deficit over the next few months. “We absolutely need guidance and ideas from the public as we try to solve this historic deficit,” Pogemiller said.

Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, said, “This site will allow Minnesotans an excellent opportunity to examine the state budget and offer suggestions and comments on how to solve the deficit with common-sense reforms.” Senjem added that all suggestions, large or small, are welcome and that the ideas gathered will help the Senate develop a budget that reflects the values and needs of Minnesota communities.

New Minnesota Miracle

The House K-12 Finance Division held meetings around the state this past interim to obtain constituent feedback regarding the new Minnesota Miracle plan. The new Minnesota Miracle, HF2, would reform education finance and provide $600 million of property tax relief. Full implementation of the bill would cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, said Greiling, the author of the bill. However, she said it could begin with “just one penny” because it offers a scalable plan intended to be phased in as funding is secured. Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, the division vice chair, said constituent feedback was positive and influenced changes in the bill language.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the bill might be the “New Minnesota Mirage,” and characterized the all-day kindergarten portion as an entitlement program. He added that the state cannot afford the overall bill at this time of budget shortfalls. There is no Senate companion at this time.

You may locate the full bill here.

Senate visits Normandale Community College
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division visited Normandale Community College this week. During the visit, college President Joe Opatz said the demographics of the students are changing. “We are now serving nearly one-quarter minority students,” he said. The committee also toured the dental hygiene and nursing facilities. On Thursday evenings, Normandale Community College dental students and dentists serve community members in need of dental care. “People will drive hours to get treatment,” said Colleen Brickle, interim dean of health sciences. Committee members also had an opportunity to learn about the college’s science labs. The labs are different than most since they are open all day for students to drop in, and labs for different courses are located in the same room. This gives students a chance to learn about different science classes and collaborate on projects. The trip to Normandale Community College was one of the many site visits that the committee will take this session. There are plans to go to a private college, a for-profit institute and the University of Minnesota.

Recommendation from State Budget Trends Study Commission
A joint meeting of the House Taxes and Finance committees heard recommendations from the State Budget Trends Study Commission. The commission, which was established in the 2007 omnibus state government finance law, said Minnesota needs to change the way it handles its money if it wants to stop the roller coaster of deficits and surpluses.

The purpose of the 15-member commission, appointed by the governor, House and Senate, was to study the implications of state demographic trends for future state budget conditions, including expected revenue collections and spending for state government services and local services supported by state revenues. Some recommendations from the commission include having a budget reserve of at least $2.1 billion, based on the current state budget; creating a structurally balanced budget for the current and following biennium; and releasing a demographic forecast at the start of each biennium. The Senate Tax Committee will hear from the commission Wednesday of next week.

Higher education performance discussed in Senate committee
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division members heard from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education this week on higher education performance. Susan Heegaard, director of the Office of Higher Education, presented an accountability report on higher education that outlined five state goals for postsecondary institutions. The goals focus on improving the success of all students, increasing student learning, increasing affordability and access, and creating a system that will produce graduates who can contribute to the development of the state's economy and compete globally.

Heegaard said Minnesota ranks quite high nationally in categories like degree attainment, retention rate and advanced placement testing. Heegaard also said that even though Minnesota has a fairly high rate of access and choice for students looking to enter into postsecondary education, the state still needs to make dramatic improvements in the area of affordability. The full report can be found here.

Tricia Grimes, policy analyst for the Office of Higher Education, presented Measuring Up, a report that is primarily used to provide policymakers with information they can use to assess and improve postsecondary education in each state.

Grimes said that Measuring Up showed that Minnesota performs very well in awarding certificates and degrees compared to other states, with 60 percent of college students completing a bachelor's degree within six years. Grimes also said that Minnesota performs fairly well in preparing its young people for college and in providing college opportunities for its residents.

Grimes concluded by saying that all states received an incomplete in learning because there is not sufficient data to allow meaningful state-by-state comparisons. Additionally, Grimes said that, like Minnesota, all states but California were given an "F" in affordability due an increase in tuition without a comparable increase in available grants. California received a “C.”

You may locate the complete 2008 Measuring Up report here.

Legislative leaders would like Minnesota to share in any potential economic stimulus package
As legislators look at ways to solve the $4.8 billion budget deficit, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, intends to let Minnesota’s Congressional delegation know that the state would like to see some of the potential economic stimulus package coming to the state of Minnesota. “We typically end up on the short end of the stick on a lot of these things coming from the federal government,” Kelliher said this week at a press conference. Kelliher said she’s got her work cut out in trying to better understand the proposed legislation, especially the part of the package directed toward job retention. Her concern is that the Legislature has a say over any money coming into the state from the federal government. “We’re going to make sure we know what the facts are in terms of when the money comes into the state and how it can best help the recovery process for Minnesotans,” she said. DFL House leadership will head to Washington D.C. this weekend for Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States as well as to discuss a potential stimulus package with Minnesota’s federal leaders.

Stimulate the economy: $825 billion proposed
Higher education may benefit from an $825 billion stimulus package proposed by the U. S. House of Representatives this week. The recommendation contains incentives for students including a $500 increase in the federal Pell Grant and more work study funding. Under the package, the Hope tax credits would increase to $2,500 per year. Students also could borrow up to $2,000 more in unsubsidized loans. If passed, the proposal also would provide $8.7 billion to update infrastructures at public colleges and universities, making them more energy efficient. Before becoming law, this legislation would have to be passed by the House and Senate and then signed by the President. A full summary of the proposal can be found here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

January 5 - 9, 2009 Week in Review

2009 legislative session gets underway with budget deficit looming
The 86th Legislative Session got underway Tuesday with mostly ceremonial floor sessions. The House convened with 23 new members, 12 new Republicans and 11 new Democrats. Democrats increased their numbers by two seats and now hold 87 seats to the 47 seats held by the Republicans. In the Senate, there are two new Senators due to retirements. The split in the Senate is 46 Democrat to 21 Republican. You may find a complete membership roster for 2009-2010 here.

In the House, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, again was elected speaker of the House. Kelliher defeated House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, on a partisan vote of 86-42. The Senate elected Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, as president of the Senate. Senators also adopted a resolution naming Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, as Senate majority leader and Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, as Senate minority leader. Before adjourning, Pogemiller and Senjem addressed the body with words of encouragement and optimism related to the obstacles facing members this legislative session. “These are tough times,” said Senjem. “But tough times bring out the best in people.”

There was much discussion from legislative leaders this week about the 2010-2011 $4.8 billion budget deficit. Senate Majority Leader Pogemiller shared his thoughts about the budget at a press conference earlier this week, saying the key is to think about the state's future and not just address the budget deficit with quick fixes and gimmicks. Pogemiller said the Senate will be looking at reform and reorganizing priorities. Many legislative leaders have been talking about reform, and the term being thrown around the Capitol this week has been zero-based budgeting. As has been tradition in budgeting, agencies typically justify only increases over the previous year’s budget and what already has been spent is automatically sanctioned. By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, every activity is reviewed comprehensively and all expenditures must be approved, rather than only increases. This requires the budget request to be justified in complete detail. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said on Minnesota Public Radio this week that this process is intensive and time-consuming, and therefore, lawmakers may look at a combination of zero-based budgeting and performance based-budgeting, a method that uses missions, goals and objectives to explain expenditures.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said that balancing the budget is “Job number one.” Kelliher said public participation will be sought from across the state to determine how "we build a more prosperous and stronger Minnesota.” She said more than 750 public comments have been received on the House of Representatives Web site where people can offer suggestions. If interested, you may provide comments here.

Another top priority is to provide economic recovery, which includes retaining jobs. Kelliher said proposed levy cuts for local government aid are contrary to what legislators promised taxpayers at the end of last session, and she said she would prefer an economic stimulus package to local aid reductions. A program at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs is scheduled Jan. 14 for legislators to learn about future economic opportunities.

Also looking at ways to develop the state’s workforce is the House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division, which met this week and announced plans to focus on developing the state’s high-tech workforce. Chairman Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, expressed his hope that committee members could build bipartisan consensus on ways to spur job growth in the state’s bioscience industries. “With our nation struggling, we have a challenge, and an important task in front of us this year," Mahoney said, adding, "If we provide trained workers to the businesses of this state, the state will prosper.”

Legislators must complete their work this session by Monday, May 18. This gives lawmakers approximately five months to solve the budget deficit. Stay tuned.

Higher education systems discuss consequences of cuts with the Senate

The Senate Higher Education committee heard from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system this week about the consequences the 2003 budget cuts had on higher education, the fiscal year 2009 $20 million unallotment to each system and the thoughts each system has for handling any cuts in the future as a result of the state's $4.8 billion budget shortfall.

University of Minnesota Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter told committee members that the challenge of cuts in 2003 was met by double-digit tuition increases, which accounted for 46 percent of the reduction. He said faculty and staff assumed more costs associated with health care, lower salary increases and unfilled positions.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Vice Chancellor and CFO Laura King said the reductions resulting from the 2003 legislative session included tuition increases, reductions in administration, reductions in instruction-related services and reductions in reserves. King said increased tuition was the primary tool used to address the reductions, with 14 percent increases in fiscal years 2004 and 2005.

As lawmakers look to balance the budget for the upcoming 2010-2011 biennium, King said the system will use all the options available in a budget reduction environment, but will make decisions in a way that best serves students, takes into account the system's mission to serve the economic development needs of the state and best positions the system for long-term financial viability.

Both higher education systems were asked to provide testimony addressing a potential cut of 20 percent in the upcoming biennium. To illustrate the magnitude of what that would mean to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, King described a variety of tools that could be used if the system should be required to absorb such a significant reduction. Most likely, a combination of some of the tools, such as staff and faculty reductions, tuition increases and campus closures, would be used rather than any one method alone.

King ended her testimony emphasizing the important role higher education plays in educating and retraining Minnesota’s workforce during this severe economic downturn. King said, "Our system of 32 colleges and universities is the key to economic recovery. Our institutions will be the ones that help dislocated workers get back on their feet, retrained for new jobs. Our institutions are the ones that provide short-term retraining certificate and diploma programs that can help newly unemployed residents retrain for new jobs."

Committees appointed

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have released the committee structure for the 2010-2011 biennium. You may find the Senate committee structure here and the House here.

Committee assignments for the House and Senate Higher Education committees have also been announced and are as follows:

House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Room 5 State Office Building

Tom Rukavina, Chair (DFL-Virginia)
David Bly, Vice Chair (DFL-Northfield)
Bud Nornes, Lead Minority Member (R-Fergus Falls)
Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth)
Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights)
Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato)
Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake)
Keith Downey (R-Edina) - 1st Term member
Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti)
Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont)
Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud)
Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul)
Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake)
Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown)
Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester)
Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan) - 1st Term member
Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin)
Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) - 1st Term member
Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield)
Andy Welti (DFL-Rochester)

Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2:45 p.m.
Room 123 Capitol

Sandy Pappas, Chair (DFL-St. Paul)
Kathy Sheran, Vice Chair (DFL-Mankato)
Claire Robling, Lead Minority Member (R-Jordan)
Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud)
Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul)
Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona)
Paul Koering (R-Fort Ripley)
Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park)
Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester)
Geoff Michel (R-Edina)
David Senjem (R-Rochester)
David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm)
Charles Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul)

Important dates for the 2009 Session
November 4, 2008 Election
November 19, 2008 Board action on Biennial Budget
December 4, 2008 November Economic Forecast Released
January 6, 2009 2009 Legislative Session Convenes
January 15, 2009 Governor’s State of the State Address
January 27, 2009 Governor’s Biennial Budget Recommendations
End of February, 2009 February Economic Forecast Released
May 18, 2009 Last Day of Session.

Stay informed!

The Government Relations team in the Office of the Chancellor, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, is here to assist you. Please feel free to contact any of the team members with questions or concerns. You also may find information for both state and federal legislative issues at the Government Relations Web site and blog.

Mary Davenport

Bernie Omann

Jerry Janezich

Melissa Fahning

Candi Walz

Capitol Security

With the beginning of the 2009 legislative session, Capitol Security has asked all visitors to the Capitol to keep within close proximity all briefcases, satchels, backpacks or other items they bring with them. Capitol Security will be taking a more proactive approach to unattended bags around the Capitol and related buildings. Security is asking that everyone stay within sight of your bag at all times and that you do not leave your bag in a chair to hold your spot in a hearing room. Capitol Security reports that all unattended bags will be considered a security risk and taken into custody to the State Patrol Capitol Security office.

American Association of State Colleges and Universities publications

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has prepared a publication entitled “Concealed Weapons on State College Campuses: In Pursuit of Individual Liberty and Collective Security.” The document can be found here. Legislation to ease weapons restrictions on campus has been introduced in 17 states, including Minnesota. This briefing provides context to concealed weapons laws on college campuses, reviews regulatory authority regarding campus concealed weapons policy, summarizes recent legislative activity involving campus gun laws, and provides a concise synopsis of the arguments for and against allowing guns on campus.

Also prepared by AASCU is the “Top 10 State Policy Issues for Higher Education in 2009,” which can be found here. The focus is on the issue of college access. This paper has been prepared from a scan of state policy activities of the past year, an analysis of trends and consideration of events that will likely shape the policy landscape.