Senate, House split on funding

Megan Boldt

Both the state House and Senate passed their capital bonding bills Thursday, but with drastically different price tags.
The Senate’s bill appropriates twice as much funding for University building projects than its counterpart in the House. The University would receive $122.7 million under the Senate’s bill, whereas the House’s would provide $66.6 million.
The money appropriated to the University would fund the construction and rehabilitation of buildings on campus.
A final decision on the bill will not be made until the end of April, after both chambers have come to a consensus.
The House passed only its bonding bill after heated debate.
Two main amendments that would change University funding and funding policy were introduced, but both failed.
Rep. Betty Folliard, DFL-Minneapolis, proposed to include an extra $12 million to fund the University’s art building. The House had only recommended $2 million of the $21 million requested by the University.
“Members, I think it’s time we pay attention to the arts,” Folliard said emphatically to fellow legislators. “You underfunded the art building big time.”
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who also represents the University’s East Bank, agreed.
“Even though this $2 million is a gesture, it’s nothing more than that,” Kahn said.
The other amendment dealt with a policy change in the bill, but it was also voted down.
All three representatives who serve the University area voted against the overall bonding bill.
The Senate’s bill passed with little opposition; only six members voted against it.
Senate majority leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said the bonding bill proves the Senate’s “significant investment in higher education” and its importance to the growth of the economy.
Mike Wilhelmi, committee administrator for the Senate Higher Education Committee, said funding for the University stayed the same as recommendations from the higher-education committee.
“When they talked about taking money away from some areas, none of the suggested cutbacks were from higher-education appropriations,” Wilhelmi said.
By next week, representatives from both the House and Senate will meet to draft one bill in a conference committee. Both houses will then vote on the finalized bill, and it will be forwarded to Gov. Jesse Ventura for his signature.

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