Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emmer's Budget Ax: Higher Education

Mark Dayton's got a math problem. Horner has a vagueness problem. Tom Emmer has a real problem - his cuts cause real pain to real people. To some extent, this will be true of the budget resulting from electing any of the three. At least Dayton's honest about that and his priority is clear, seek revenue sources instead of blindly cutting.

Emmer's political calculation is that by leaving K-12 education alone (and acting like the nearly $2 billion that Tim Pawlenty "borrowed" from school can be deferred for years) he can hack away at other categories in the budget. Health and Human Services, the second largest and fastest growing budget category, suffered the greatest dollar cuts (and yes, they are cuts no matter how much Emmer insists otherwise.) But Higher Education and Local Government Aid came in for devastating cuts that no rhetorical sleight of hand can dismiss.

If Emmer's budget were to become law, public higher education in Minnesota would be transformed forever. And I do not mean transformed in a good way. It will become increasingly unaffordable and force a contraction in capacity at the very moment that students are flocking to retrain and retool. Higher education is an engine of economic development in a state that badly needs it. To slash away is more than short-sighted, it's criminally negligent.

If Emmer's budget were to become law, Minnesota's tuition rates would skyrocket. They would be the highest in the country or very near the top. Emmer's proposal to cut higher education would reduce the state appropriation to $2.5 billion. That's a $312 million cut. But wait, it gets worse.

For the purposes of clarity, consider how this might impact the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Under the current two-year budget, MnSCU received $1.129 billion from state appropriations, approximately 43% of the overall higher education budget of $2.812 billion. That means MnSCU's share of the cut would be about $134 million. That cut will come on top of the expiration of stimulus funds representing another $79 million. That's a cut of over $213 million for FY 2012-3, or a cut of $107 million per year. In percentage terms, this is a cut of 17.6% from MnSCU's FY2011 budget.

While it's hard to predict exact impacts, consider what was said last year:

MnSCU's chief financial officer, Laura King, said in the case of a 20 percent budget cut, her system would prefer to implement a series of fixes. King said they would include layoffs, higher tuition, enrollment caps and potentially closing some of MnSCU's 54 campus across the state.

"Whether it's higher tuition, enrollment caps, fewer course offerings, or reduced student services, our students will see those impacts," King said.

King also said that if they took only one approach, they could offset the cut by closing as many as 18 community colleges.

That's right - you'd have to close almost 18 community colleges to fix Emmer's gaping hole. Don't worry, maybe it won't be the one in your community.

Welcome to Tom Emmer's Minnesota. Let's hope people are paying attention.

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Tom said...

Fortunately, the MnSCU folks have already started looking into consolidation realizing that there is quite a bit of duplication within the system.  Minnesota is already pretty high as far as college tuition goes isn't it?  No one seems to mind if we move up a few rungs as far as taxes, why not higher ed?

The real key is how Governor Dayton intends to fill the gaping hole in his budget (and funding the additional spending) as he will be in a position to have his budget implemented unlike Governor Emmer.

Aaron Klemz said...

Let me reverse the question - no one seems to mind if college students see their tuition increase every year, why not more progressive taxes? Tuition is a "revenue source," it's just that it's mostly debt taken on by students.

In any large statewide system there might be some "duplication," but I'm not so sure that's "fortunate." Consolidation will eliminate programs, force enrollment caps, and cause layoffs. There's nothing fortunate about that.

Phoenix Woman said...

What "gaping hole"?  Dayton's budget is slightly fuzzy because revenue projections are by nature fuzzy.  Emmer's budget, on the other hand, doesn't provide at all for raising money and increases Pawlenty's Gaping Deficit by at least another $500 to $600 million, depending on revenue projections.  Comparing Dayton's budget to Emmer's is like, well, attacking the motes in somebody else's eye while ignoring the two-by-four sticking out of your own. 

But don't expect to see much in the way of honest, in-depth local coverage of Tom Emmer from the corporate radio, TV and daily papers.  At least two of the local TV stations (FOX and KSTP) are active cheerleaders for the Republicans (KSTP's lead anchor Cyndy Brucato, who recently announced her retirement, is a longtime RPM operative, and Stanley Hubbard has donated far far more to Republicans than even to conservative Dems:  And of course longtime conservative DJ Tice runs the Strib's editorial page. 

How bad is the local corporate legacy media's coverage of this race?  Not one of them has dug into Tom Emmer's business history (including his family's failed lumber and dairy businesses) like Abe Sauer of The Awl -- and The Awl's based out of New York City: <span><span></span></span>

James K said...

What makes you think Emmer is going to be in a position to implement his little magic trick? 

And as for taxes..we're on the lower end.  And as for higher education..what do you think is going to happen to the economy when noone can afford higher education because Governor Emmer has made it unaffordable thanks to his magic cuts?