Regents to decide if U will ask state for $61.3M

The Board of Regents will decide Friday whether to ask the Minnesota Legislature to take on a $61.3 million bonding request to fund capital projects at the University of Minnesota. The request is separate from the $141 million increase to the UniversityâÄôs budget proposal, which was already approved by the Regents. If approved by the Legislature, this special request would provide money to repair and upgrade University buildings, and build a new Bell Museum of Natural History in St. Paul. Vice President for University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said construction on both the museum and the maintenance projects could begin this summer if funding is approved, creating much-needed jobs. âÄúWeâÄôve received an indication from at least some elected officials that they will be considering a bonding bill,âÄù she said. âÄúWe want to make sure the UniversityâÄôs needs are considered in that discussion.âÄù That case will need to be made persuasively. Last Thursday, when the state announced a projected $5.2 billion budget deficit for the next three years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty told reporters that his top three priorities were the military and veterans benefits, public safety, and K-12 education. Sen. Claire Robling , R-Jordan, said she would probably be hesitant to support new requests that arenâÄôt directly related to academics, given the current economic climate. Robling said she is not surprised that the University would bring the requests again this year. Last year, money for building repairs was cut from $100 million to $30 million by the Legislature, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed Bell Museum funding entirely. Regent Clyde Allen said the University and the Legislature would have to weigh the immediate costs of the projects against the potential economic benefits. âÄúWeâÄôll certainly take the deficit into consideration, but you have to remember, bonded debt gets paid off over a long period of time,âÄù Allen said. âÄúBut the work that it funds gets done right now, which could be a real stimulus to the economy.âÄù The Regents will be deciding several other important issues at their meetings this Thursday and Friday, including: the sale of alcohol in the premium seating areas of campus sports venues; the purchase of two lots on Fourth Street Southeast for $1.25 million, and the creation of a Limited Liability Corporation to manage the development of UMore Park. Check for the results of ThursdayâÄôs and FridayâÄôs meetings.