Posted: Sep 21, 2012 10:35 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Sep 21, 2012 10:36 AM
HELENA - Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) wants to increase funding for higher education and freeze tuition.
He announced his plan in a press conference Thursday morning.
The Schweitzer administration is in the middle of putting together its budget proposal for the 2013 legislative session. The Governor says he is proposing to increase funding for higher education by $34 million.
"We have made a deal with the Regents. If we put $34 million will you agree not to raise tuition for the next two years? Will you agree not to raise taxes on working families in Montana? Will you agree to continue to make higher education more affordable and more accessible in Montana? And they have said yes!" Schweitzer says.
With 2012 being an election year, the new Governor will be drafting his own budget to be approved by the Legislature.
Schweitzer says if the newly elected Governor is smart he will look at this proposal and run with it.
Republican candidate Rick Hill says he has his own plan for funding higher education.
He says it involves using priority based budgeting, which means keeping programs that are working and cutting programs that aren't.
"The University System, its first priority, should be to keep tuition costs low not an after thought," Hill says. "That's why we need a better budgeting process for the University System just like we need a better budgeting system for the rest of government."
Democratic candidate Steve Bullock says he will work to freeze tuition because he believes an educated workforce is critical to improving Montana's economy.
"When it comes to higher education, last year, when the Legislature didn't adequately fund it and tuition was increased, that's a tax on every working family," Bullock says. "So I do think that we need to keep tuition frozen and I think it does make sense to spend some of our surplus dollars."
Schweitzer says he will be rolling out the rest of his budget between now and mid-November.