The University of Minnesota is gearing up for the 2014 legislative session with a $230 million preliminary bonding bill request.
The request, released July 15, asks for funding of six construction and renovation projects across all University campuses. On the Twin Cities campus, the University requested funding for renovating the Tate Laboratory of Physics, constructing a new Plant and Animal Science Building and modernizing existing labs.
The largest University-related item that didn’t receive funding last session was a new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus, which was requested by Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul — not the University.
Although the University didn’t request funding for the new Bell Museum this year either, Jason Rohloff, the University’s head lobbyist, said it’s likely Hausman will push for it in 2014 if she still leads the House’s Capital Investment Committee.
Rohloff said he’s optimistic this year’s bonding request will pass.
“I feel very confident that policymakers are in tune with what facilities are needed to position students for success and to fulfill the mission of the University,” he said.
University officials will meet with policymakers in the coming months to make the case for the projects.
The University’s top priority in the request is $100 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Renovation, which is funding for the general upkeep and maintenance of University buildings.
One of the main HEAPR projects is to renovate the Mechanical Engineering building, which Rohloff said is in “dire need” of funding.
The building needs a number of upgrades to meet safety and health codes, Rohloff said, adding that lawmakers have previously toured the facility to see what needs repair.
A large bonding bill failed in May, leaving about $110 million in University construction projects unfunded, but in odd-numbered years, the Legislature traditionally focuses on the budget rather than bonding projects.
Later in the session, a smaller bonding bill passed, mostly providing funding to renovate the state Capitol.
University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter previously told the Minnesota Daily that “unmet needs” from the recent failed bonding bill will go into the 2014 request, but the preliminary request doesn’t include everything that didn’t get funding last session.
Not including the University, the Legislature has received nearly $2.6 billion in bonding requests from various organizations so far — and that could increase. Rohloff said he doesn’t expect any “dramatic changes” to the University’s request.