Regent nominees against Branstad’s higher-ed cuts

BY KATIE HEINE | MARCH 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Two of Gov. Terry Branstad’s three nominees to the state Board of Regents told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday that they don’t support Branstad’s proposed cuts to higher education.

Nicole Carroll and Katie Mulholland, who have been nominated along with Bruce Rastetter, voiced their concerns about the cuts, which would slash 7.7 percent or $36.7 million from higher education for fiscal 2012.

The three nominees appeared before the committee on Wednesday.

Mulholland, 63, said she was not in favor of the proposed decrease because she hadn’t seen a detailed budget. And as someone who has worked with Iowa education since 1975, she said, she’s used to viewing budgets “back and forth.”

“I couldn’t support the governor’s recommendation at this time,” Mulholland said.

She said it was difficult to answer anything other than “No” to Branstad’s proposed cut without any evidence it was needed.

“I think it would be fair to say that was a question in which none of us had enough information,” she said.

Carroll said she was not in favor of the 6 percent budget cut because the regent institutions had already taken a hit — especially with the economic downturn in the last few years.

“Regent institutions are major players in Iowa’s economy,” said Carroll, 57. “The money put in pays itself back.”

Nearly every dollar put in by the state to the institutions generates $1.50, which has a positive impact on the economy, she said.

Though Carroll said she doesn’t want to second-guess the governor, she said she understands he has to make some cuts.

“But maybe there are other areas we could be looking at,” she said.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, a member of the Education Committee, said he was not surprised by the nominees’ responses.

One of their jobs is to advocate for education, he said, and he expected them to want to support the institutions.

“I was disappointed all three of them weren’t unequivocally against it,” Hogg said.

Though Carroll and Mulholland made it clear they were not in support of the cuts, Hogg said

Rastetter’s responsewasn’t quite as obvious. Instead, Hogg said, Rastetter said he questioned where else to cut if not the area of education.

Rastetter couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

“Two of them strongly supported funding for regents even if the governor was reluctant,” said Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville.

Regardless, Dvorsky said, he was pleased with Wednesday’s discussion.

All three candidates are very supportive of public education, Dvorksy said. He also said the nominees are familiar with each of the state institutions — which is important as they will be the spokesperson for the universities.

“They all sounded like they would do a good job on there,” Dvorsky said.

The nominees must be voted in by at least 34 senators — a two-thirds approval. The Senate must confirm the nominees by April 15.

Pending approval, their terms will begin May 1.

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