BISMARCK (AP) - State senators approved a two-year budget for North Dakota's public colleges on Tuesday, endorsing a 9 percent increase for the next two years and laying the groundwork for negotiations with House members who want to spend less.
North Dakota's Senate voted 40-7 to approve the $645 million budget. It has two major expenditures that were rejected by the House - $6.6 million in tuition subsidies and $10 million in so-called "equity" money for colleges.
The tuition aid would freeze tuition at the state's two-year colleges and limit increases at four-year colleges to 2.5 percent each year. The equity money helps colleges that get less state support than similar schools in other states, said Sen. Raymon Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Holmberg called the budget a reasonable compromise between those who want to invest more in higher education and those who think spending has spun out of control. He compared the Senate's preferred spending plan to Goldilocks' third bowl of porridge, calling it "the correct and balanced approach."
"There are those who find this budget too hot, too rich, too much money," Holmberg said. "There are those here ... who feel that this budget doesn't invest enough in higher education. Give us more."
Holmberg said the proposal spends less on administration than the previous two years and allows more money for student needs.
"Legislators are always skeptical of bureaucracy, and we should be," he said. "The bureaucracy, if we want to call it that, did not get generous increases in this budget."
The spending plan gives Bismarck State College $3 million to help finish the fourth floor of its new National Energy Center of Excellence building. It includes $5 million for Minot State University to complete a geothermal building heating system.
The proposal would let schools sell bonds to pay for a variety of other projects, including renovations of Bismarck State College's student union and building new town home apartments at UND.