U to receive money for projects but will see new budget cut

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

The University’s capital request is off and running.

The Senate Higher Education Budget Division unanimously passed a recommendation to the Capital Investment Committee on Wednesday to approve funding for all 12 of the University’s bonding projects.

The board also approved a recommendation to fund all of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ 27 building projects.

“This is a new way and a new day for our committee,” said Sen. Deanna Wiener, DFL-Eagan and committee chairwoman. “This is the game part of the session.”

Wiener, also a member of the Capital Investment Committee, said the Senate will have an overall bonding bill between $1 billion and $1.1 billion.

But Peggy Ingison, assistant commissioner of the Finance Department, warned the committee the state has a bonding capacity of only $1.09 billion.

“I think we want to be very careful in this fiscal environment,” said John Wodele, Gov. Jesse Ventura’s press secretary.

He said the committee’s recommendation indicated the Senate’s bonding bill might exceed responsible borrowing limits.

In other Capitol news, the Senate Finance Committee approved a $50 million cut to higher education, including a $25 million reduction in the University’s 2002-03 budget.

While gentler on higher education than Ventura – who cut $33 million University dollars – senators were apprehensive about their decision.

“We’re voting for this bill because we have to. It’s the responsible thing to do,” said Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, “not because it’s our priority to cut higher education; it’s our priority to support higher education.”

The proposal goes before the Senate’s tax committee at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 15 of the Capitol.