The Senate passed a bonding bill yesterday with $24 million in funding for a new Bell Museum of Natural History and $35 million in funding for facility upgrades and repairs for University buildings (HEAPR funding). Before its passage, Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, had proposed shifting the money set aside for the Bell Museum to HEAPR projects, but the proposal was voted down.
Rendering of the proposed Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus.
Kathleen O’Brien, Vice President for University Services, was unavailable to comment on the bill yesterday, but did get in touch with me today to talk about it– and had the amendment passed, the University would have been able to spend the full $59 million on HEAPR projects, she said.
At any one time, O’Brien said, the University has more than $100 million in HEAPR projects across the state. As such, had Robling’s amendment been passed, the University could have spent the funding.
The University has received at least $30 million in HEAPR funding three of the last four Legislative sessions, (a slide show about the University’s requests presented before Legislative committees can be found here), and O’Brien said nearly 80 percent of the funding passed last session has been used already.
The House is considering a bill as part of their bonding bill that would give $39.5 million for the Bell Museum project. Funding for the project was passed last session but vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. O’Brien said the Univeristy would make the case that the project has support in the Legislature this year and deserves to be funded.