Dayton’s bonding bill looks bleak for University

The bonding bill will likely change drastically before it is passed during the 2012 legislative session.

Dina Elrashidy

The University of Minnesota received disappointing news Tuesday for the outlook on its wish list of construction projects for 2012.

Gov. Mark Dayton revealed a $775 million bonding bill proposal for the 2012 legislative session which would allocate $78 million in funds for construction projects at the University of Minnesota âÄî less than half of the UniversityâÄôs request.

âÄúWould we have liked more? Absolutely,âÄùsaid Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer.

The Board of Regents finalized its capital request to the state Legislature at its October meeting. The University sought about $170 million from the state to fund projects like a renovation of Eddy Hall and the Old Main Utility Building, among others.

Pfutzenreuter said the University will lobby for more funds, specifically for the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) âÄì funds used to make repairs and improvements around campus.

In DaytonâÄôs plan, the University would receive $20 million for HEAPR âÄî short $70 million of its request.

All projects proposed by the University are top priorities, Vice President for University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said. The University was very selective in choosing what projects to put on its capital request, she said.

âÄúWe have literally dozens of projects that have merit that we did not bring forward,âÄù OâÄôBrien said.

Among them was a new ambulatory care clinic, which the board removed from the capital request before its approval on Oct. 14.

OâÄôBrien pointed to the UniversityâÄôs efficient use of money from the bonding bill passed at the end of the government shutdown over the summer as a selling point to giving the University more aid.

The University received $88 million of the $531 million bonding bill for HEAPR, the physics and nanotechnology building and to mitigate the light-railâÄôs effects on laboratories.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, said he expects the final bonding bill to give more money to higher education. In a previous interview with the Daily, Senjem guessed that the University would receive about $133 million from the state.

âÄúI donâÄôt think we have to get excited about whatâÄôs in the bill or whatâÄôs not in the bill,âÄù Senjem said, stressing that the final product will look much different.

In a press release, Senjem criticized Dayton for âÄúusing debt as a jobs plan.âÄù  

The governorâÄôs proposal is the first step in lengthy process that can change the request entirely, OâÄôBrien said.

âÄúThis is really the beginning,âÄù she said.