Kaler promotes maintenance projects as legislative session convenes

The University launched #renewUMN in January to promote the schools bonding request.

University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler answers questions from members of MSA during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

Carter Blochwitz

University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler answers questions from members of MSA during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

by Michael Achterling

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler advocated for funding the University system’s aging infrastructure at a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday.

A day after lawmakers returned to work, Kaler pushed for over $238 million in total funding for the University system. He stressed that failing to fund maintenance projects will only increase costs later.

“Simply deciding not to fix something doesn’t mean it gets better on its own,” Kaler said. 

This University state funding request included $200 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funding, $24 million for a Pillsbury Hall renovation and $10.5 million in coordinate campus funding.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s public work proposal calls for $250 million in HEAPR funding.

In previous years, the Legislature has not allocated the University’s total requested amount.

A year ago, the University requested $245 million, but received $119 million in the Legislature’s final allocation.

Maggie Perrel, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota-Crookston who was at the press conference, said she worked at labs in Crookston that are in need of improvements to remain competitive with other universities.

“These spaces are in high demand,” she said. 

Kaler said he expects the University system’s tuition to increase in response to inflation.

Legislature back at work

The 2018 legislative session convened at noon on Tuesday amid protests for gun control measures in response to the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.  

Controversies from the last year continued into the start of this session.

Concerns were raised on the Senate floor over Lt. Gov. and Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, whose dual role has raised controversy and a constituent lawsuit from her home district. 

Lawmakers spent Wednesday attending a mandatory harassment training in response to legislature resignations over sexual misconduct allegations.

“Our responsibility is to provide an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination,” said House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “People often would like to express [harassment] concerns, but they don’t want to come forward publicly.”

New lawmakers Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal and Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, were sworn in following their special election victories in districts occupied by former lawmakers Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center and Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, who resigned due to sexual harassment allegations.