Local legislators in Helena talking to constituents during a video conference in Havre Wednesday said, depending on what the governor does, it does not look like university funding will be increased by this Legislature.
“There is no change in the university funding, that I am aware of, ” said Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, after she said the Legislature’s budget bill had been sent to the desk of Gov. Brian Schweitzer Wednesday.
Sen. Rowlie Hutton said he wants everyone to understand how difficult trying to balance the budget has been this session.
“When you start off behind the eight ball …. The reports came in that we’re spending more money every month than the state’s taking in, so somewhere along the line we’ve got to demonstrate some fiscal responsibility, ” he said. “We would love to fund a number of areas, but if the money’s not there — that’s the problem were running up against, is we just don’t have the money.”
Montana State University-Northern professor Bill Thackeray said cutting the university system budget — the budget cut $32 million from the governor’s proposed budget — it will lead to cuts in services and tuition increases.
“The only source of funding, other than student tuition, is the state legislature, ” he said. “If you cut the funding they are projecting, already, … an 18-percent increase in student tuition. It gets difficult.”
“We understand that, Bill …, ” Hutton said. “All three of us here are in favor of good, solid education. I think I said last week, it’s hard to get blood out of a turnip and if we don’t have the finances or the money that’s the difficulty we run into.”
Thackeray said he had urged looking into eliminating some administrative positions, “costs for people who don’t actually meet the students, but I don’t think you have much control over it.”
“You’re right in both cases, ” he said. “I think you’re on to something, and we don’t have much control over it.”
“But we will, ” Hansen added.
Thackeray said he believes that would be an improvement.
“I think the Legislature would probably be more responsible there, honestly, than the higher education administration, ” he said. “I’m sorry to say that, but I think that’s true. ”