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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

State bonding bill gives U $48.3 million

State lawmakers approved a $237 million bonding bill last week earmarking $48.3 million in funding for six University construction projects vetoed last year by former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, called the bill a “catch-up from last year.”

Other legislators called the bonding bill a trade-off for the two-year $195 million state funding cut given to the University earlier this month as part of the state’s plan to balance its budget.

“Higher education had been harmed by the (Gov. Tim) Pawlenty funding bill,” said Sen. John Hottinger, DFL-St. Peter. “I thought it was very important that we at least get the bonding approved Ö to show our support for the University.”

The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill at the end of their 10-day special session, even though they are not required to pass the bonding bill until next session.

Capital bonding is the process of authorizing state bonds for construction or renovation of public property. State law requires the University to pay back a third of the money granted for projects on its campuses.

Low interest rates and the lagging economy also make it an opportune time for building and construction, some legislators said.

“It’s a good time to put some people to work,” said Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna.

Of the six University projects approved, Hottinger said the Translational Research Facility, which was given $24.7 million, was one of the most vital.

“The Translational Research Facility is an extremely important project for both the University Ö and Minnesota for creating future jobs,” he said.

The research facility is part of the University’s molecular and cellular initiative. The building will provide laboratory, office, conference and seminar space. In addition to the state bonding funds, an anonymous donor gave the University $10 million for the project, with another $2.3 million coming from profits of the sale of a prescription drug created at the University.

The University plans to use $3 million to complete design plans for the Teaching and Technology Center, which will provide the Institute of Technology more research space. The Research and Outreach Centers, which provide support and research to state agricultural, horticultural and natural resource areas, will get $2.5 million.

Another $8 million will fund the reconstruction of Jones Hall, and $1.5 million for renovating the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul.

The University also received $8.6 million for the reconstruction of the Social Science Building and dormitory fire sprinklers on the Morris campus.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the outcome of the bonding bill,” University President Bob Bruininks said. “It will allow us to start on some critically important projects.”

U projects next year

University officials said next year’s capital bonding request will focus more on campus renovation.

“There will be much less emphasis on new construction this time around,” Bruininks said.

He said he hopes the University will receive funding for a recreational facility for the Duluth campus and to construct the Teaching and Technology Center, which received planning money this session.

University officials have already met to make a “wish list” of other project possibilities.

The writers welcome comments at [email protected] and [email protected]

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