Happenings at the Minnesota Capitol:
The leaders of the DFL-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House walked out of Gov. Jesse Ventura's office smiling Wednesday. Their faces reflected the fact the two chambers are headed in similar directions on the budget fix.
"I'm just really encouraged ... about the developments of the last day or two," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon.
For one thing, Democrats have adopted the Republican view that the state's budget deficit can be fixed without raising taxes.
Senate DFLers on Tuesday said they'll instead propose using budget reserves, program cuts and some accounting shifts. "We can get through 02-03 without raising taxes," Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, reiterated Wednesday.
Ventura was also pleased with Wednesday's meeting. "It seemed very positive," he said. "They seemed to be listening to me."
The leaders of Minnesota's two big university systems pleaded with the House Higher Education Finance Committee on Wednesday to spare their colleges from budget cuts the size Gov. Jesse Ventura is recommending.
Ventura proposes a $33 million annual cut to the four-campus University of Minnesota budget and $32 million to 34-school Minnesota State Colleges and Universities budget as part of his plan to erase a $1.95 billion projected deficit.
University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof said several programs are building national reputations and student surveys show broad satisfaction, progress that he said has created "fragile momentum."
"It would be a historic mistake. It would not be smart to cut our budget to the point that (momentum) stalls," Yudof said. "Once it stalls, it may take years to get back to that point."
Tuition at the university increased 13.3 percent last year and another double digit hike is on the way. The MnSCU system also boosted tuition considerably last year, and Chancellor James McCormick said he doesn't want to price students out.
McCormick said it would take another 10 percent tuition increase to make up for the lost $32 million, if the school chose to lump it all on students.
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