Higher-education committee prioritizes art building

by Megan Boldt

Straying from Gov. Jesse Ventura’s recommendations, the state House Higher Education Finance Committee ranked the University’s proposed art building a top priority for the higher-education finance bill.
The committee unanimously passed its recommendations Wednesday. The recommendations will now go to the House Capital Investment Committee, which will decide how much funding to give each University initiative. The higher-education bill will eventually be voted on by the full House in April.
Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, higher-education committee chairwoman, said committee members who toured the Art Building saw it needed to be a high priority.
“That building is the bottom of the barrel,” Leppik said. “It’s a safety hazard for all in it.”
Committee member Rep. Betty Folliard, DFL-Hopkins, said she thinks the House and Senate will both promote the art building. Folliard and others have contacted the governor’s office to ask for their support.
“I think the governor’s office is receptive,” she said. “Nothing is written in stone yet.”
Ventura proposed funding $54 million of the $134.3 million the University requested. The governor did not fund the art building in his proposal.
Leppik said the committee did take Ventura’s proposal into consideration when deciding the recommendations.
“Ventura made his list different than the University, and we made our list a little differently than both,” Leppik said.
The committee ranked each proposal by what it saw as important but did not recommend funding allocations. Members sent the list fully funded, leaving the funding decisions to the investment committee.
Richard Pfutzenreuter, University chief financial officer, said things have gone great so far, but it’s too early to judge at this point.
“I think it’s going to be a tough road from here on,” Pfutzenreuter said.
University officials will keep themselves readily available for any questions the legislators might have, he said. In addition, he said, students, faculty and staff members need to keep the pressure on.
Pfutzenreuter said overall the University should do OK, even with the size of Ventura’s bonding bill. He also said it will help with Leppik being on the investment committee, since she has always been supportive of higher education.
“Her presence on the committee will make a difference,” Pfutzenreuter said.
Sarah Anderson, investment-committee administrator, said the committee held an informational meeting Thursday and members will draft a bill around mid-March. She added that committee chairman Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, is supportive of the initiatives.
“Knoblach has said in the past that he is committed to higher education, and he is disappointed in the governor’s proposal,” Anderson said.

Megan Boldt covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.