Legislators visit U to discuss funding

Legislators toured campus to see buildings officials said need updating.

Stephanie Kudrle

A group of legislators in the state House are working to introduce a bill that would fully fund the University’s capital bonding request.

University President Bob Bruininks met with the House Higher Education Finance Committee on campus Tuesday to explain and promote full funding for the University’s proposal.

Some legislators said the University deserves its full request, but others said it is too early to know how successful a bill to fulfill the University’s request will be.

Several representatives voiced their support for the University at the meeting.

Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said he had deep roots with the University and was frustrated with Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal.

“Constituents from all around the state benefit from the University,” he said.

Latz said he will co-author the bill in the House to reinstate the University’s full funding request.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said the governor’s bonding proposal was “a step backwards” for the University.

He supports the bill requesting full funding.

However, committee Chairman Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, said the House will have difficult funding decisions to make this year.

He said Pawlenty will present his proposal to the House on Monday.

“We have to take all projects in the proposal seriously,” Stang said.

After being introduced in the committee, the bill will have to be approved and sent to the House floor. House members will make amendments and vote on the bill. It will then be conferenced with the Senate and voted on again, according to the Legislature’s Web site.

The bill will reach the governor only if it is approved by the House and Senate.

During the meeting, Bruininks outlined some of the projects the University’s request would fund.

“Capital requests aren’t the most exciting thing in the world,” Bruininks said. “But they are vitally important.”

He used Coffman Union’s successful renovation as an example of the type of projects that the University would like funded this year.

“This is a workhorse, not a showhorse proposal,” Bruininks said. “The governor’s proposal is not enough to maintain the University, let alone move it forward.”

He said the emphasis of the bill is on remodeling and updating old buildings, rather than constructing new ones.

After the meeting, legislators took a tour of campus to see first hand the projects the University wants funding for. Bruininks said he hoped by seeing the buildings in need of renovation, committee members could better understand the request.

Major renovations in Kolthoff Hall, the Education Sciences Building and Academic Health Center were at the top of his list.

Bruininks also said revenue the University brings into the state supports Minnesota’s economy.

The University brings half a billion dollars into the state every year and creates thousands of jobs, Bruininks said.