Pawlenty proposes $130 million for U


Gov. Tim Pawlenty won’t support funding for some of the University of Minnesota’s top-priority building projects, including the renovation of Folwell Hall, a new Itasca biological research station and an American Indian learning center in Duluth.

Pawlenty announced his recommendations for University funding in the state bonding bill proposal Friday, calling the $685 million proposal “affordable and responsible.”

Higher education funding accounts for slightly less than one-third of the total amount of the proposal. Of the $240 million the University asked for in its 2010 capital request, Pawlenty recommended the University receive $130 million.

The remaining funds in the bill were distributed among various public works projects throughout the state, including transportation, public safety and economic development.

Pawlenty did back some of the University’s requests, including funding for a new physics and nanotechnology building and research lab renovations. His proposal also included $40 million of the $100 million requested by the University for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding, which is used to maintain buildings and infrastructure.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said the University is “a little disappointed” in the amount of the governor’s proposal but is hopeful that the Legislature will recommend a higher amount in its bill.

“The bill is a good start,” Wolter said, adding that the University was pleased with the governor’s support for the physics and nanotechnology building project.

The governor’s recommendations are not the final word on the fate of University projects like Folwell Hall, as DFL lawmakers have indicated that the bill the Legislature will propose in the upcoming session will be larger than the governor’s and therefore could still include projects not supported by Pawlenty.

If included in the Legislature’s bill, however, the governor could still veto individual projects out of the bill, as he did to funding for a new Bell Museum each of the past two sessions.

At a press conference announcing his proposal, Pawlenty warned the DFL-controlled Legislature against proposing a bill much larger than his own and said doing so could jeopardize the whole bill.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chairwoman of the Capital Investment Finance Division, said funding infrastructure projects is especially important this year because taxpayer dollars will go further and interest rates and project bids are much lower.

Hausman said the DFL proposal will likely be around $1 billion.

“This year is an important year to capitalize on the one positive thing coming out of a bad economy,” Hausman said at a press conference.