Panel OKs partial bonding

A House committee approved $90 million of the University’s $156 million request.

Stephanie Kudrle

The House did not fully fund the University’s capital bonding request in a bill passed Wednesday in a committee meeting.

The House Capital Investment Committee passed legislation funding $90.48 million of the University’s $155.5 million request, a decrease from the House Higher Education Finance Committee’s previous recommendation of $148.5 million.

University officials said they appreciated the bonding committee’s effort to give more funding to the University than the governor’s proposal, but said they were unsatisfied with some of the cuts.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommended funding $76.6 million of the request, and the Senate Higher Education Budget Division fully funded it. The Senate Capital Investment Committee has not yet released its recommendations.

Capital Investment Committee Chairman Rep. Philip Krinkie, R-Shoreview, said he tried to follow the House finance committees’ recommendations but had to make additional cuts to stay under the House’s bonding limit.

“I understand that some people will have difficulty with the final result of the bill,” he said. “But we couldn’t follow the committees down the line.”

In all, the Capital Investment Committee recommended a more than $600 million bonding bill. It also includes funding for roads, bridges and renovations for state departments and agencies.

Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, said the bonding committee funded all but two projects from the University’s request.

“It’s a big improvement over what the governor recommended,” he said.

The committee cut funding for the Carlson School of Management expansion and the Duluth campus’ recreational sports center.

It also snipped $52 million from the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement fund, which goes toward restoring and improving old University buildings.

Stang, chairman of the House Higher Education Finance Committee, said the bonding committee cut money from the agency to provide

funding for other individual projects, such as the Kolthoff Hall renovation.

“We wanted to have a fair balance,” Stang said. “When we only have so much to spend, there has to be a balance.”

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the bill was a step in the right direction but that there were weaknesses in the proposal.

“Are we jumping up and down with joy?” he said. “No, because (the bonding bill) is still a long way from where we need it.”

The decrease in funding to the preservation agency concerns him, Pfutzenreuter said, but he hopes the Senate’s package will gain momentum.

He said the University is looking forward to hearing the Senate’s bonding bill, which legislators hope to release next week.