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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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State budget forum yields huge turnout

by Derek Wehrwein

Issue date: 02/24/09 Section: Local and State News
Turnout at the state budget forum held in Mankato last week wildly exceeded expectations, as several hundred people packed the Intergovernmental Center to listen to elected officials, university officials and fellow residents speak.

Among those in attendance Thursday were Minnesota State University Student Association President Chris Frederick and Minnesota State Student Association President Ryan Anderson.

While the city may have been surprised by the turnout, Frederick indicated he wasn't.

"I knew there were going to be a lot of people there, since our state has never been in this situation," Frederick said. "I was disappointed that we as a community hosting this event could not house everyone who wanted to attend."

Much of the forum consisted of people speaking in defense of various programs that might face cuts as Minnesota tries to erase a $4.8 billion projected state deficit. State Sen. Kathy Sheran moderated the event, which was attended by MSU President Richard Davenport, various other MSU officials and numerous elected officials from southern Minnesota.

"It was mostly people speaking in favor of preserving programs that were very important to them," said Anderson, who himself spoke briefly about the importance of not forcing students to shoulder an impossibly difficult financial load. "A lot of people got pretty emotional, not about higher education, but about other things."

A few, however, came with a different message. Among them was MSU student Marcus Piepho, who spoke about the need to limit spending and cut taxes.

"I definitely expected a lot of people to be there that were basically … pleading with legislators to not cut their programs," he said. "There was only about three or four of us who talked about how we need to limit spending. [People] didn't really want to bite the bullet and we all have to."

Anderson said he thought legislators walked away from the forum with a clear message.

"Whatever decisions they have to make," he said, "it's going to affect real people."

Derek Wehrwein is the Reporter editor in chief