Senator proposes HEAPR, Crookston wellness center funds

The full Senate hasn’t yet released its bonding proposal.

by Jessica Lee

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, last week brought bills to the Senate higher education committee that would allocate $75 million for HEAPR — Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement — at the University of Minnesota and $2.5 million for a wellness center at the Crookston campus.

The full Senate hasn’t yet released its bonding proposal.

The University’s $170 million request outlines money to renovate Eddy Hall — an idea absent from Stumpf’s and governor’s recommendations as well.

The University’s first priority is receiving HEAPR funding, which funds building construction and maintenance projects on the school’s five campuses.

Wheelock said a quarter of University buildings are more than 70 years old, and the renovation money from the state would ease the burden on students to offset construction costs through fees and increased tuition.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said although the bonding proposals fall short of their request, the University is thankful for what the state has allocated.

“We always submit to the state our most critical needs,” he said, “but we know that the governor and the elected officials in both the House and the Senate have to set priorities among lots of competing interests around the state of Minnesota.”

Hausman’s bonding bill in the House, which passed the Ways and Means Committee last week, has been referred to the Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.

Pfutzenreuter said the University will be lobbying to increase money for construction projects and upkeep as the bills move forward.

Senators set aside Stumpf’s proposals for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Stumpf also released his own $750 million bonding proposal, which simply mirrors Gov. Mark Dayton’s recommendation, which allocates $72 million to the University.

Also at the Capitol this week, the bill that increases funding for the University passed its last checkpoint before it hits the House floor.

Legislators, while passing the bill forward, again raised concerns over transparency and spending at the University. Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said he wants the Legislature to have a bigger say in how the University spends its money.