Conference committee OKs bonding bill

by Brady Averill

Though it came more than nine months late, the Capital Investment Conference Committee unanimously voted to pass an $886 million bonding bill Wednesday evening.

With $108.3 million for the University, it fully funded all the University’s construction projects, except the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds.

The bill contributed $40 million instead of the University’s requested $90 million. The Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds are for various maintenance projects, for example, replacing leaky roofs.

The University does not contribute money to the funds, but it does help fund the other projects.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” said Todd Iverson, University assistant director of state relations.

Because the legislators passed the bill early, he said, the University won’t lose the construction season to start the projects.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said she was especially pleased with the strong level of commitment to higher education.

During a press conference earlier in the afternoon, legislative leaders said they are confident the bill will receive strong passage in both chambers.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, along with the committee members and House and Senate leaders, announced at the press conference that they had come to an agreement on the bonding bill.

Pawlenty said the bill was a team effort; he and legislators went line by line on the bill all Wednesday morning and afternoon.

“We wish we got it done earlier. Better late then never,” Pawlenty said.

The Legislature failed to pass the bonding bill last year because of gridlock.

But committee co-chairman Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said no legislator got everything he or she wanted.

House Speaker Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, added it was important to find reasons to be for the bill instead of reasons to be against it.

The committee will work out the bill’s language today. The House and Senate must then each pass the revised bonding bill before it goes to Pawlenty for his signature.

“All’s well that ends well,” Langseth said.