Bonding bill plan shorts education

Funding for bridges shouldn’t take away from higher education.

Imagine a pie. The whole thing must be divvied up to various plates – one slice for transportation, another for education, a little one for conservation, economic development and a few other smaller ones.

The urgency of putting more funding toward transportation and bridges threatens to make other slices even smaller. There’s only so much of the pie to go around.

Earlier this month Gov. Tim Pawlenty introduced his capital investment plan – how he’d like to cut the pie. And he set a record by devoting 40 percent of it toward transportation.

Generally, higher education gets nearly one-third of the bonding funds, but under Pawlenty’s proposal, it would be cut to just 23 percent.

The University would receive $129 million under Pawlenty’s plan. It originally requested $225 million to update dilapidated buildings and outdated facilities.

Pawlenty’s proposal would fund a Folwell Hall renovation and completely overhaul the Science Classroom Building, but failed to mention funding for a new Bell Museum of Natural History. Forty percent of building maintenance went unfunded.

Clearly, without making the pie bigger by bringing in more funding, some areas are going to be left hungry under Pawlenty’s proposal.

Last week University President Bob Bruininks rightfully criticized Pawlenty’s proposal. No one’s arguing with the fact bridges need to be fixed. But, as Bruininks said, it shouldn’t be at the expense of higher education.

A one-time bonding bill that focuses even $225 million on transportation won’t fix the state’s bridge problems. The proposal only funds repairs for one-third of the deficient bridges in the state.

Rebuilding bridges needs to be a continuing effort funded by taxes – whether it is a gas tax or increase in sales tax.

It’s time for Pawlenty to consider a bigger pie.