ST. PAUL -- Before Morrie Anderson gave his take on Gov. Jesse Ventura's budget, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chancellor jokingly showed off the number for a depression help-line affixed to his notes.
But Anderson wasn't in a laughing mood Tuesday, and neither was University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof. Both leaders said Ventura put colleges on course for faculty cuts, scaled-back programs and double-digit tuition increases.
"I give the governor a 'D' for disappointing," Anderson said.
Anderson and Yudof both characterized the budget as needlessly stingy. Other groups, including an umbrella group for nonprofits, also criticized the two-year, $27 billion budget.
Praise came from an environmental coalition pleased that Ventura proposed about $50 million for cleanup of the Minnesota River by issuing bonds to match federal conservation dollars. Welfare advocates applauded Ventura's decision to use a federal block grant to extend the 60-month time limit on benefits as long as recipients hold or are actively seeking jobs.
As he introduced the budget, Ventura tried to pre-empt criticism he expected from his decision to propose only $709 million in new state spending across all programs.
"Not everybody gets everything they ask for," Ventura said. "That's why they call them wish lists."
Added Dean Barkley, director of the Minnesota Planning agency: "Everyone (at the Capitol) says the world is going to end if we don't spend more money on something."
But Yudof, for one, faulted those arguments.
"This is a huge step backward," Yudof said. "It's not a question of a wish-list, it's a basic need list."
Under Ventura's proposal, the university would get $56 million in new money, far less than the $221.5 million officials requested. MnSCU's request was even higher, but its allotment was also in the $50 million neighborhood.
Yudof called on the school's 300,000 alumni and other university supporters for action.
"We will fight against this budget as actively as possible," he said.
Also pledging to put up a fight was the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Marcia Avner, the council's public policy director, was upset most with a proposal that would let cities and other local units of government assess fees on nonprofit groups. Churches, schools and hospitals would keep their exemptions.
"We are deeply concerned and we will vigorously oppose this effort," Avner said.
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