Kaler’s reaction to state construction appropriations

Just got this statement from the U:

Minnesota Legislature approves $119.4 million for U of M bonding projects

 The Minnesota Legislature today approved $119.4 million in state funding for University of Minnesota bonding projects and appropriated additional funds via supplemental finance provisions.

“I’d like to thank members of the House and Senate who have been strong advocates for the University of Minnesota this session,” University President Eric Kaler said. “I’d also like to thank Governor Dayton for his support of our request from the start. These investments enable Minnesota’s land-grant university to conduct world-class research and educate students for the global marketplace.”

The Legislature approved full funding for two University of Minnesota capital investment projects:

  • $56.7 million for renovations to 87-year-old Tate Laboratory, to meet the modern teaching needs of physical science disciplines; and
  • $10 million to renovate and expand the Crookston campus wellness center, to better serve a growing residential student population.

Policymakers approved partial funding for three projects:

  • $42.5 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR), used to maximize and extend the life of facilities that serve students, faculty and staff system-wide;
  • $8.7 million for the research laboratory improvement fund, which includes the St. Paul campus aquatic invasive species and bee laboratories; and
  • $1.5 million for a new chemical sciences and advanced materials building on the Duluth campus.

“These important investments will help University of Minnesota researchers address the state’s most pressing challenges, keep state industry competitive and fuel our economy,” Kaler said. “Whether it’s the threat invasive species pose to Minnesota’s waterways or preventing devastating effects from a continued decline in honeybee populations, the University is uniquely poised to achieve strong results for the state. This funding will also help us meet the state’s need for more graduates with degrees in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields and advance our mining industry.

“Policymakers understood our critical needs for up-to-date and efficient learning and research spaces, and for that our students are the real winners. The 50,000-plus students enrolled across the U system each year deserve modern classrooms and labs to prepare for the work environments they will enter,” Kaler said.

HEAPR funds will help bring buildings up to code for health, safety and accessibility purposes. System-wide, the University’s buildings account for 29 million square feet, more than seven times the size of the Mall of America. One in four major campus buildings are 70 years old or older, according to capital planning officials. The Twin Cities campus alone has nearly 100 buildings that are more than 50 years old.

As part of the supplemental finance bill, the Legislature agreed to appropriate $3.5 million in recurring funds to cover debt service for a new Bell Museum of Natural History to be built on the St. Paul campus. The University supported the project, as long as its funding did not dilute funding for higher University priorities. Although the $51.5 million project was not part of the University’s request, to move the project forward, Kaler agreed to seek approval from the Board of Regents to issue the bonds for the new facility. The Bell was established by the Legislature in 1872 as the “state repository for all biological collections.”

The supplemental finance bill also appropriates funds, as follows, to support critical University of Minnesota research and other needs:

  • $4.35 million (recurring) to invest in regenerative medicine research;

  • $1 million (one-time) for the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative, supporting research “to protect the state’s natural resources while increasing the efficiency, profitability and productivity of Minnesota farmers by incorporating perennial and winter-annual crops into existing agricultural practices”;

  • $4.86 million (one-time) to establish a Terrestrial Invasive Species Research Center and help maintain Minnesota’s leadership in invasive species research; and

  • $200,000 (one-time) to research preventions and cures for a relentless virus affecting the pork industry.