U hopes to build off Pawlenty’s proposal

Bryce Haugen

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his support Tuesday for three new University buildings, but turned down another multimillion-dollar project.

At a news conference in St. Paul, the governor revealed his $811 million bonding bill proposal, which funds construction projects statewide. If legislators agree to it when they reconvene in March, the University will see a new science teaching and student services building and expanded business schools on the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses.

“We think the bill is big enough,” Pawlenty said. “It is a good-size bill.”

But University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said more work is ahead since the governor’s proposal includes half as much money to renovate aging facilities as the University had requested.

“This was a good start for us, but we’re not throwing in the towel,” he said.

He said the renovation dollars, known as higher education asset preservation and replacement funds, are not the ribbon-cutting achievements of a new building but are crucial to preserving University facilities.

“What we presented was what we needed; we still believe it’s what we need, and we’ll continue to make the case to the Legislature for those projects,” Pfutzenreuter said.

He said the University will continue to fight for its full request, which includes money for a new medical biosciences building, a key component to the University’s long-term plan. The governor’s proposal calls for $4.3 million to design the facility.

“If we’re going to attain the aspirations to be one of the top public research universities in the world, doing one medical biosciences building every four or five years is not going to get us there,” Pfutzenreuter said. “We’re going to be left behind.”

House Capital Investment Committee chairman Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, said the governor’s recommendations included few surprises. With the Minnesota Colleges and Universities System faring comparatively worse, it’s unlikely the University will get a better deal than what Pawlenty offered, he said.

“For the University, I guess it looks pretty good. The number seems about right.

“I’m not sure (the University aspect) needs to be tweaked,” he said.

Dorman’s Senate counterpart, Senate Capital Investment Committee chairman Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said he thinks both the House and Senate proposals for University projects will probably resemble the governor’s.

“The “U’ came out quite well,” Langseth said.

Dorman and Langseth said crafting the final bill will come with a fair dose of politics, starting immediately.

Each blames the other’s legislative chamber for politicizing the bill, Langseth said.

“The game is being played,” he said.