So what do legislators think of state higher-education officials' use of dire-but-impossible budget-cut scenarios that show what it would be like if sacrifices were made in just one area -- such as faculty layoffs, school closures or double-digit tuition increases?
I've received split reactions from two House higher-ed committee members -- both educators -- one a Republican and the other a DFLer.
Sense a partisan divide?
King Banaian (R-St. Cloud), who's also a St. Cloud State economics professor, reached me by e-mail and saw it as an overly dramatic yet familiar part of the budget process::
There are many variations of what has often been called the Washington Monument Strategy. If you said "we'll make each department 15% smaller" you'd probably think that is hard but not impossible. But close three campuses?? That causes gasps and reactions. ... (It's) an attempt to maximize the perceived pain of budget reductions rather than minimize them.
Understand, they are doing something almost every public official does when describing how a reduction in budget affects them. It is unneeded drama, but my reaction is to say this has always been part of the budget process. The question is whether anyone reacts to it; with as many new legislators as we have (including me) it's possible someone will shy away from making deeper cuts.
So far, I don't see it having much effect, but the tale is still to be told.
Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona), a high school history teacher, reached me on the phone, and said it was a necessary way to approach the issue:
I’m not displeased with what they did. They’re gonna have to be dramatic if there’s gonna be some softening of this.
We’re going to have to find out how they really are going to (make cuts if needed). In the last three sessions we voted when we didn’t have the full picture. This time I’m pressing. I want to know the full totality of it. This thing is a totally different animal. It's nothing like what I’ve seen in 24 years.
(The tactic) does help for the (committee) members who are new and haven’t seen the numbers. It does help us comprehend the scope of this.
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