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University of Minnesota response to Minnesota House of Representatives' proposed 2014 bonding bill

April 1, 2014

The following is a statement from University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler regarding the Minnesota House of Representatives’ proposed omnibus bonding bill for the 2014 legislative session:

"Chair Alice Hausman and her Capital Investment Committee colleagues have been strong advocates for the University of Minnesota and we are extremely grateful for their support. We realize the challenges facing the Legislature this session with many worthwhile capital projects on the docket. We look forward to working with legislative leaders to fund our six priority projects to keep Minnesota industry competitive, fuel our economy and better prepare Minnesota students for the modern workforce," said Kaler.

The House bill provides full funding for three U of M projects:

  • $56.7 million for renovations to 87-year-old Tate Laboratory, to meet the modern teaching needs of physical sciences disciplines;
  • $12 million for the research laboratory improvement fund, which includes the St. Paul campus aquatic invasive species and bee laboratories; and
  • $24 million for a new chemical sciences and advanced materials building on the Duluth campus, to provide research space to advance Minnesota’s mining industry while safeguarding the environment. It will also help meet the state’s growing need for chemists and biochemists.

The House bill devotes partial funding for two more projects that constitute the U’s $232.7 million capital request:

  • $30 million of $100 million requested for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Restoration (HEAPR), to maximize and extend the life of facilities serving students, faculty and staff system-wide; and
  • $1.13 million of $10 million requested for the Crookston campus wellness center, to better serve a growing residential student population.

"While we are grateful for the House’s bonding recommendations for three of our projects, we must have a higher level of funding for our top priority, asset preservation, or HEAPR. We must maintain buildings we already have, and the proposed funding level is inadequate. These infrastructure improvements—to fix roofs, upgrade wiring and plumbing and ensure energy efficiency—are in demand statewide, across all five campuses. We will continue to work with the Legislature to increase this important HEAPR number, as well as funding for the Crookston Wellness Center and microbial sciences research building," Kaler said.

System-wide, the University’s buildings account for 29 million square feet, or more than seven times the size of the Mall of America. Most are in good condition, according to Kaler, but one in four buildings, including 30 percent on the Twin Cities campus, are 70 years old or older.

"Our HEAPR request is essential to ensuring we deliver on our mission. The 15,000-plus students earning University of Minnesota degrees each year need up-to-date and efficient learning and research spaces. Years of disinvestment in higher education means the state’s public land-grant university needs to erase a backlog of deferred maintenance. These projects around the state also protect previous investments by the Legislature and create Minnesota construction jobs," Kaler said.

The House bill excludes funding for a new microbial sciences research building on the St. Paul campus. The U is requesting $30 million for a facility to house interdisciplinary research to speed discoveries in plant pathology, food safety and animal infectious diseases, key areas for growing Minnesota business and industry.

Also included in the House bill is $51.5 million for a new Bell Museum of Natural History. Established by the Legislature in 1872 as the state’s museum, funding for the Bell falls outside the University’s request.

For more information about the University’s 2014 capital investment request, visit z.umn.edu/6stepsforward.

Twin Cities Campus: