Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bonding proposal advances, University of Minnesota in the Senate, Town Hall forum presentation available

Bonding proposal heard in the House
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities can do its part to put people back to work. Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities, Al Johnson told the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division committee yesterday that $40 million of the proposed $50 million asset preservation, or HEAPR, projects would go out this calendar year.

The committee also heard HF1063, carried by committee chair Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, that would provide $106.6 million for higher education projects that were vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty last session or only partially funded in last year's bonding bill. If there is a not a bonding bill this session, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projects will be at the top of the system’s priorities next year, Johnson told the committee.

Also before the committee were other bills relating to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. One of the bills, HF 283, would provide funding to the city of Mankato to upgrade its convention center with a hockey rink and a performing arts center. The addition of a rink would be used by the Minnesota State University, Mankato women’s hockey team. Another bill, HF 23, is seeking $6 million of state funding, matched by local funds for a $12 million project to create a steam line from Olmstead County’s waste-to-energy center to Rochester Community and Technical College. This alternative energy source could help heat and cool the campus, and save the college 20 percent. Chair Rukavina said the steam line project could potentially be a proposal to receive some of the federal stimulus money to be used in Minnesota to promote green projects. Both of these bills advanced to the House Capital Investment Committee for consideration.

University of Minnesota testifies in the Senate
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard an oversight review from the University of Minnesota yesterday. Vice President and CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter, provided an overview of the university's annual budget. He said the FY 2007-08 state appropriation and tuition revenue was a combined total of $1.2 billion. These funds are spent on instruction, student services and faculty compensation, Pfutzenreuter said. He said the governor proposed a $75.5 million recurring cut on top of the $2.5 million recurring cut that passed in 2008. Due to the cuts, Pfutzenreuter said tuition could increase approximately 7.5 percent before financial aid.

Pfutzenreuter said the University is under a salary and wage freeze, a hiring pause and employees are experiencing health benefits plan design changes in order to cut the budget more. He also said academic programs are being consolidated or eliminated and the graduate school has been reorganized.

P-20 Partnership bill heard in the House
A proposal to add four legislators to the state’s P-16 partnership and expand its scope was approved by the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee yesterday. Rep. Marsha Swails, DFL-Woodbury, who sponsors HF106, said adding legislators from both major parties and renaming the council a P-20 education partnership would cost the state nothing and would help move innovative ideas more quickly from the think tank atmosphere into the public forum and eventually into law.

Beth Aune, Minnesota Education Department’s director of academic standards and P-16 initiatives, said some council members fear the lawmakers’ presence could engender a partisan atmosphere on the council and reduce its "nimbleness."

The bill was sent to the House Finance Committee with a recommendation to refer it to the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division. Its Senate companion, SF21, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, awaits action by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Town Hall presentation available
The background power point presentation used at the Town Hall meetings around the state is now available on the House Web site. The information has been prepared by the House and Senate fiscal staff.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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