U receives no funding for Folwell

Funding for the University’s biomedical research program is in, while renovations for Folwell Hall will have to wait as the Senate passed its $1.1 billion version of the state’s bonding bill Tuesday.

Fulfilling nearly $134 million of the University’s $225.5 million capital request, the Senate’s decisions reflect a strong interest in science, as renovations at Folwell were nixed from the bill.

The Senate approved full funding for a new Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus and science teaching and student services building, among other programs.

Despite the ouster of Folwell renovations from the bill, Richard Pfutzenreuter, chief financial officer at the University, said he was happy the Senate followed the University’s priorities.

“We love it,” he said. “We always would like to get every project, but we also know the reality is you don’t get every project.”

Ultimately, it came down to a decision between Folwell renovations and the Bell Museum, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

“I think there was some preference in the House for the Bell Museum,” he said. “The University could’ve gone either way on that.”

Both Pfutzenreuter and Pogemiller said they hope to fund Folwell renovations in the state’s next bonding bill.

Charlotte Melin, chairwoman of the German, Scandanavian and Dutch department housed in Folwell, said the building needs funding for educational purposes.

“Our students can go to a coffee shop across the street and they have more technology than they do in some of the spaces in Folwell,” she said. “Students are paying a lot of money for their tuition and really should be expecting the best in their classes and in their classroom spaces.”

The Senate passed the bill with a 51-7 vote, but the projected $935 million state budget deficit means the bill could have a hard road ahead.

Currently, the bill includes almost $300 million more appropriated for projects than Gov. Tim Pawlenty would like, his spokesman Alex Carey said.

“He’ll stress then that it’s extremely important – now more than ever – to be fiscally responsible in this bill,” Carey said, referring to a lag in state revenue.

Speculating that Pawlenty would prefer a bill near $800 million, Carey said the state’s Finance Department suggested capping the bill at $885 million.

Pogemiller said he believes Pawlenty can be convinced to hold at $965 million, but “if the governor prevails, we’ll have to cut some projects out.”

While it’s too early to tell which projects the state would ax first, Pogemiller said, he’s hopeful Pawlenty would keep the higher education-related appropriations intact.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities received nearly $273 million of its $383 million request.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on its bonding bill – which provides the University with an extra $2 million compared to the Senate’s.