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Governor Tim Pawlenty ceremonially resigns state bonding bill.

Governor Tim Pawlenty resigns the state bonding bill at a ceremony at the U surrounded by, left to right, Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost; President Bob Bruininks; Board of Regents chair David Metzen; Bud Nornes, chair, House Higher Education Finance Committee; and Frank Cerra, senior vice president for health sciences.

State bonding bill gives U $111 million

By Rick Moore

From M, summer 2005

Editor's note: As this issue of M went to press, only the fate of the University's capital request had been determined. In this online version, read about the U's biennial budget request and the progress of stadium legislation at the end of the story.

Throughout much of the 2005 session of the Minnesota State Legislature, the University has been monitoring the progress of its biennial budget request, as well as the 2005 version of its 2004 capital request and a bill that would provide state funding for a new football stadium on the Twin Cities campus. As this issue of M went to press, only the fate of the University's capital request had been determined.

On April 11, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a $945 million bonding bill for the state of Minnesota. Included in the bill was more than $111 million for the University of Minnesota for construction and renovation projects on its various campuses.

The University's capital (bonding) request was originally submitted to the Minnesota Legislature for the 2004 legislative session, but when an agreement could not be reached on a state bonding bill last year, the U resubmitted its request this session for $158 million in state contributions.

The University will receive funding for all of the projects detailed in its request, including renovations to Kolthoff Hall, the Education Sciences Building (formerly the Mineral Resources Research Center), and Academic Health Center facilities on the Twin Cities campus; renovations to the Life Science Building and an addition to the Sports and Health Center on the Duluth campus; and a biomass heating plant addition and new football facility on the Morris campus. For each of those projects, the University will contribute one third of the costs for debt obligation.

The University will also receive $40 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funds, which are used for general repairs and maintenance projects. This was the only area in which the U's request fell short; the University was seeking $90 million in HEAPR funding.

In addition to the projects in the U's 2004 capital request, the agreement provides funding for two additional projects: a farm shop maintenance facility at the North Central Research and Outreach Center in Grand Rapids and a plant pathology research facility on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul.

"This bonding bill helps the University of Minnesota lay the foundation for our efforts to become one of the top three public research universities in the world," University President Bob Bruininks said. "It will enable us to make much needed maintenance and enhancements to the classrooms, labs and other facilities that enhance student learning and the university's research mission."

"We're very pleased that the legislature and the governor worked together to come up with a bonding bill agreement," says Kathleen O'Brien, vice president for University Services, the unit that oversees construction projects at the U. "These funds will enable us to make some very necessary investments in our academic infrastructure. And this comes at a time when we'll be able to fully capitalize on the upcoming summer construction season."

Update

On Friday, May 20, both the House and Senate passed the higher education budget bill. The bill provides $105.6 million in new funding for the University over the next two years. While the total falls short of the University's $126 million request, it reverses the trend of cuts to higher education and will provide the University with new funds for investment in biosciences research, and attracting and retaining talented students and faculty. As of May 24, the bill was awaiting Pawlenty's signature.

The stadium bill did not see final action before the regular legislative session ended May 23. Broad bipartisan support increases the bill's chances in the special session that began officially May 24. The U's goal is to have the bill addressed this year in order to stay on track for a 2008 stadium opening, maintain private fund-raising momentum, and realize the TCF naming rights corporate sponsorship, which is contingent on state funding.

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