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Letter: U of M asked to review budgeting process

Last week, the Minnesota House Taxes and Ways and Means committees began hearing Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal and determining what it means for Minnesotans. The plan increases state spending by $2.5 billion and increase taxes on Minnesotans by nearly $3.7 billion. Specific discussion was had on the impact to the working poor and the middle class due to the sales tax expansion on goods and services.

Dairy Day was Wednesday in St. Paul, providing us an opportunity to highlight how important this industry -- and agriculture in general -- is to Minnesota's economy. Dairy production was up 4 percent last year, even though we experienced drought conditions. There are 455,000 cows in Minnesota on 3,900 licensed dairy farms. Each provides about 25,000 of economic activity to the state and Minnesota exported $218 million in dairy products last year, 13 percent of the national total. I enjoyed my visit with some of the dairy farmers of southwest Minnesota to discuss the issues their industry is facing and the potential impact of legislation this year.

The Minnesota House Higher Education Finance Committee heard testimony from U of M leaders this week as they asked the Legislature for funding increases over the next biennium. Lawmakers quizzed university officials about consistently rising tuition and student debt. A spokesperson said if the U of M receives its funding increase, it pledges to freeze undergraduate tuition rates for Minnesota residents. The funding request comes after a recent Wall Street Journal article embarrassed the university for out-of-control administrative costs. The committee asked the U of M to specifically outline its budgeting process, as well as a more detailed accounting of how the university's programs have been hurt by spending reductions.