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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 18 2013

ND lawmakers cut request for more higher ed employees

BISMARCK – A handful of lawmakers have stripped the seven positions Gov. Jack Dalrymple has called for in his budget for the state’s university system, while others discussed a bill that would prohibit the chancellor from spending or accessing any fees from the state’s institutions for new office staff.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, chairman of the Senate Appropriations, said nobody on the five-member subcommittee looking over Senate Bill 2003 supports the proposal for the positions.

“I don’t think they made that great of a case for looking at new employees,” he said. “They already can hire their own if they have the money.”

The subcommittee also has cut the governor’s proposed funding for university system governance.

Holmberg said the original $3.2 million proposal was knocked down to about $1.3 million.

The funding would be available to the university system to spend on needed items or employees to oversee the university system.

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani said he would be disappointed if the committee ends up cutting the request by the end of the session.

“If they cut positions and don’t give us anything, there is nothing I can do,” said Shirvani, who has asked for 30 positions.

“If they give me $1 million, I can work with that, but the products are not going to be as good.”

“The lower amount they give us, or don’t give us, the longer it takes to achieve our goals to create the best system of higher education,” he said.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee will act on House Bill 1281 this morning, which prohibits the State Board of Higher Education from using funds appropriated and designated for one school to support the North Dakota University System office or for the hiring or payment of personnel.

The bill would prohibit the university system from increasing fees to support office staff.

Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, said some amendments to the bill will be brought up to make sure universities can pool their funds and resources with other campuses.