|Rethink Budget Moves on Ag Programs|
Lansing State Journal
Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to cut funding for the MSU Extension has riled some in the agricultural field, Michigan's second-largest industry. It's not the first time the governor has proposed such reductions.
This time, though, the angst may be short-lived, thanks to what happened in Washington, D.C., recently.
There, the federal stimulus bill passed into law with a proviso that receiving states not cut existing funding for education, including higher education.
And Michigan State University says it has long been legislative practice to consider Extension funding to be higher ed work. Therefore, it would be protected from Granholm's proposal. (The governor's office was asked about this analysis, but did not respond before deadline Tuesday.)
The governor's budget proposes the merger of the MSU Extension with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. This would lead to a reduction of state funding from $64 million to $32 million.
The extension and the station actually get more money from sources that are not the state. And MSU reports the economic impact of their work to be $1 billion.
With such effects and with agriculture remaining a key part of Michigan's economy, it seems an odd place to be trimming. Still, the governor is responsible for a huge budget - and a huge budget deficit. Every state program has its users and defenders; every proposed cut will draw some critics.
What complicates this situation for Granholm is that in addition to proposing such cuts, she also has called on MSU and other universities to adopt a tuition freeze. So, the overarching policy becomes one of stagnant state investment and state restraint on universities' ability to raise their own funds.
That just doesn't add up right now. As Granholm has said so many times in the past, Michigan needs more college graduates and it needs an economy well-versed in advanced research of all types. High-tech farming is still high tech, after all.
MSU also possesses a unique role here as a land-grant university. It is supposed to be engaged in agricultural research and outreach to the agricultural community. Are these duties really the lowest-hanging budgetary "fruit" to harvest?
To offer just one point of comparison: Michigan spends an average of $30,000 per year to incarcerate a prisoner. House 1,067 prisoners at that cost and you have spent the $32 million difference between what MSU ag programs are getting and what Granholm proposes for them.
Michigan's budgetary future isn't in restricting higher ed. It seems the governor's proposal is eclipsed by events. Now lawmakers can move on to better ideas.