Gov. Pawlenty signs state bonding bill

by Brady Averill

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the state bonding bill Monday, sending some construction crews to work after a nearly one-year delay.

Last week, the State House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill that funds construction projects around the state. The bill did not pass last year because of gridlock in the Legislature.

Pawlenty signed the bonding bill at the Northstar commuter rail line’s future stop in Coon Rapids, Minn.

He will re-sign the bill today at a signing ceremony at 2 p.m. in Moos Tower.

The $886 million bonding bill gives the University $108.3 million for construction projects. The bill fully funds all of the University’s project requests except for the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds.

The University requested $90 million for the funds, but the state put forth $40 million.

The funds pay for basic campus maintenance projects.

At a meeting last week, University President Bob Bruininks said he wished the University could have received the full request for the fund. But he said he was happy with the bill overall.

“It’s a very good outcome – that we’ve increased the level of support from the state,” Bruininks said.

This year’s lobbying efforts proved to be helpful, he said.

“We feel we did a good job of advocating our position,” Bruininks said.

In 2002, the bill funded projects such as improvements to Nicholson Hall.

Students might not understand how this bonding bill will improve on-campus buildings, said Donna Peterson, University associate vice president for government relations. But if they look at projects such as Nicholson Hall, they will see the effects of past lobbying efforts, she said.

“If you come back in two to three years, you’ll see a lot of difference because of this bonding bill,” she said.

Legislators said they were happy with the bonding bill.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said, “Obviously, it’s better than when we didn’t pass it.”

It is a good bill, but the University should step up its lobbying efforts, Kahn said.

She said the bonding bill is a statewide issue, and the University should direct its lobbying efforts to more than Twin Cities legislators.

Passage of the bonding bill this year came earlier than in previous years.

“Everyone was pretty much committed to doing it and doing it as fast as feasible,” said Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, House Higher Education Finance Committee chairman. “Maybe we should do more of this at the Legislature.”

– Than Tibbetts contributed to this article.