Senate passes state bonding bill

by Brady Averill

The Senate passed a $975 million bonding bill 57-7 Monday. The bill, which funds construction projects, includes $118 million for the University.

The University requested $158 million to help fund various maintenance and building projects. The bill fell $40 million short of the University’s request, taking away money from a systemwide general fund.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommended $744 million for the bill, of which $100 million would go to the University.

The bonding bill didn’t pass during the last session because of gridlock in the Legislature.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said, “It’s about time.”

Pogemiller said he wanted the University’s full request to pass.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said, “We’re a third of the way home. We gotta get the House to pass it and (Pawlenty) to sign it.”

Pfutzenreuter said the cut in the systemwide general fund will push some projects “downstream.” The Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement fund makes general construction improvements systemwide.

The House will likely vote on its bonding bill in late February or March.

If the House passes it, the bill will go to a conference committee in which the Senate and House will have to agree on a single bill.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, the Senate Capital Investment Committee chairman, said the bill’s passage is important to the University to keep buildings from deteriorating.

Deputy Minority Leader Sen. Thomas Neuville, R-Northfield, who voted for the bill, said the bill’s amount is a little high right now.

When the bill goes to a conference committee, there will have to be some degree of compromise because of the monetary difference between the Senate’s bill and what the governor recommends, he said.

But Neuville said the difference between the Senate and the governor is not related to the University.

“I see the ‘U of M’ being in pretty good shape, at least so far, in the bonding process,” he said.

– Than Tibbetts contributed to this report.