Senate OKs U funding

Nina Petersen-Perlman

The state Senate on Thursday approved a $990 million public works bonding bill in a 56-9 vote to fund state construction projects, including some high-profile University initiatives.

The University now is looking to the House to authorize spending for several of its pet projects, which include a $330 million request for the Biomedical Sciences Research Facilities Authority and $80 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter compared the Legislative session thus far to a three-course meal.

He liked the salad (Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s initial $845 million recommendation), was delighted with the main course (the Senate’s $990 million proposal), but not happy with dessert (some University program cuts).

For example, the Senate flipped expected funding

contributions to build a new Carlson School of Management building. Instead of providing two-thirds of total funds,

the Senate was willing to give half of that, putting the

two-thirds burden on the University.

“That kind of gave me some indigestion,” Pfutzenreuter said.

The bonding bill zoomed through the Senate; it was passed just 40 hours after being introduced Tuesday evening.

Sen. Mady Reiter, R-Columbia Heights, said she hoped House members would follow suit and put aside partisan

bickering to approve the

bill before the session ends May 22.

“The pace is very fast; there’s a general air of cooperation,” Reiter said. “My goal for sure is to get out by May 22.”

Reiter said she was doubtful the House would approve the bill as it stands now. She said it probably will look more like Pawlenty’s lower recommendation.

“It’s still a little on the heavy side for dollars,” Reiter said.

Brian McClung, Pawlenty’s director of communications, agreed.

“We believe that the Senate bonding bill is too large, but we want to work with legislators to come up with a solution,” McClung said in an e-mail.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said the bill they put

together probably will end

up in between the governor’s and the Senate’s dollar amounts.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-

Minneapolis, said there was some concern in the House that the University was trying to take “too many bites from the apple” by having separate bonding requests for the stadium and for the biomedical initiative.

“It’s difficult when all these things are on the table at once,” Kahn said. “The University didn’t give us a serious priority setting. I’d like someone to tell me: Is the Science Classroom Building or the stadium more of an issue?”

Although the Senate approved $40 million of the $80 million in Higher Education

Asset Preservation and Replacement funds, Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien said the University needed everything it asked for.

“I committed to the legislators that every dollar of (Higher Education Asset Prevention and Replacement) would

be used wisely and that we needed every dollar,” O’Brien said.