Legislature delays U’s $155.5 request

Molly Moker

The Legislature disbanded two weeks ago without passing the University’s $155.5 million bonding request.

Without state money, the institution will be forced to use $44 million of its own funding to cover repairs and projects, leaving 80 percent of projects unfinished, University officials said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty could call a special legislative session to address bills that did not pass before the end of the regular session, including the bonding bill.

But University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said he does not expect the situation to change.

“We have nothing now and I just don’t see a bonding bill or special session happening,” he said.

Dan McElroy, Pawlenty’s chief of staff, said leaders in the State House and State Senate are meeting this week to discuss what would be covered in a special session and how long the session would take.

If both houses can agree on the terms, McElroy saidPawlenty will call a special session.

How long it will take to reach an agreement and how long the special session would last remain unknown, McElroy said.

If a special session is called, a bonding bill would likely be passed, McElroy said.

He said bonding would be addressed last in a special session because it is more popular and easier to pass than budgeting.

“Bonding is like public policy dessert and budgeting is like public policy vegetables,” McElroy said. “And we’ve already eaten the vegetables.”

If the Legislature does hold a special session, the Senate’s bill would be the most favorable to the University. If it were passed, it would give the University $115.6 million.

But if the Legislature goes into a special session, Pfutzenreuter said he thinks the time will be spent fixing other portions of the state’s budget.

“There are overall budget problems at the state level that they need to address,” he said.

University President Bob Bruininks said he was surprised and disappointed a bonding bill was not passed.

“I believe it is the responsibility of our elected office to work in the state’s best interest,” Bruininks said. “And this is not.”

Bruininks said he is optimistic that a special session will be called to pass a bonding bill.

“With low interest rates and a soft economy, there’s no better time to invest in the University and the future,” Bruininks said.

If the University does not receive state money, many University projects will be postponed until 2006, the next bonding year, Pfutzenreuter said. Those projects include the Carlson School of Management’s addition, the Education Sciences building and the Kolthoff Hall renovations.

The University’s $44 million – which comes from gifts, grants, the repair and replacement fund and other University funds – will be used to make pertinent repairs on existing buildings.

“We’re not going to take that money and do a partial job on things,” Pfutzenreuter said. “We’ll have to patch roofs instead of replacing them by just throwing down some tar.”