Gov. Jesse Ventura is traveling around the state, trying to sell Minnesotans on his proposed budget. Some of the loudest criticism of the budget plan is coming from university and college administrators who say the governor's proposal will make them lose good professors, and raise tuition. Ventura made the first stop on his statewide budget tour at the University of Minnesota in Duluth.
Paul Hanson, UMD grad and current staffer at the UMD library was among those who protested at Ventura's meeting. (MPR Photo/Nick Schmidt)
VENTURA MADE HIS BUDGET PITCH to several hundred students and staff members, who packed into a small auditorium at UMD. Two protestors held signs charging that the governor's budget would cause tuition increases, but when Ventura stepped to the podium, he got applause and a few friendly hoots from the crowd.
Before he said a word about the budget, the governor spent several minutes pumping another of his current interests - the Xtreme Football League. Ventura said he provided color commentary for two XFL games last weekend.
"For all of you here, who are young people, who are a little disenchanted with the No Fun League, the NFL, get ready, you're gonna love this football. Truthfully, now it going to be football as you never seen before," Ventura said.
After the football talk, Ventura read a half-hour summary of his budget proposal. He highlighted the University of Minnesota-Duluth's medical school, which he wants to give additional money to. And he responded earlier criticism from University President Mark Yudof, who says the governor's budget provides the university system too small an increase.
I realize that President Yudof may be shocked about my budget, but I believe that with a strong economy, low unemployment, and growing personal income, the cost of government should not expand at an accelerated rate. His own economists agree with me," Ventura maintained.
Ventura took questions from the audience, about the university budget, about the Iron Range, and about the XFL. When a student suggested that Ventura's budget proposal would cause tuition hikes, the governor turned to a familiar theme.
"You've all heard me say, if you're smart enough to be in college, you ought to be smart enough to figure out how? Well I've also started a great program for tuition and scholarship by joining the National Guard. There's plenty of ways to figure out your way through school, and there's nobody who says you got to be done in four years. No rule says that," Ventura said.
IN VENTURA'S WORDS
Listen to Ventura's remarks to students at faculty at the University of Minnesota - Duluth.
Ventura said the state's universities should make their own internal cuts and "reallocations" before they ask for substantial budget increases.
UMD junior Rich Green was one of the students who spoke out to challenge Ventura on his university budget proposal. Green says he agrees with Ventura that the university should be held accountable for its spending, but he says the increase the university asked for was reasonable.
"The university should justify what they're spending their money on, and if they can make some cuts in some areas and not decrease services, by all means, that's great," Green said. "But at the same time, just to defend the university, I think there are some justifications for that increase."
During his remarks, the governor also spoke briefly about the Iron Range economy. He said his budget calls for more money for "non-traditional students," which should help out of work miners. Ventura said the state should, "do all it can" for the range, but he also said, he's only the governor, and he can't stop mines from closing.
Chris Julin covers northeast Minnesota for Minnesota Public Radio's Mainstreet unit. Reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.