Saturday, March 1, 2008


Proposed U of M Biosciences Buildings Hit a Funding Snag

Or, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Morrill Hall...

From the Pioneer Press:

By Paul Tosto

Article Last Updated: 02/29/2008 11:27:00 PM CST

The package hit a snag this week after Minnesota Finance Commissioner Tom Hanson questioned the plan's financing, which calls for the state to help pay off nearly $300 million in bonds issued by the university.

Because the bonds would be floated by the university — not the state — supporters argue they would run outside the guideline limits of this year's state bonding bill.

But Hanson on Tuesday said that wasn't the case.

"There is no doubt that these buildings would be part of the state's overall debt obligations and should be treated accordingly," he wrote to lawmakers, adding that "this proposal would appropriate roughly a half-billion dollars over more than 25 years without any further oversight."

Bonzo interjects:

Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable,
Throw in undependable too.
Do my foolish alibis bore you ?
Call me unpredictable, tell me I'm impractical,
Rainbows I'm inclined to pursue.

(with apologies to Francis Sinatra)

The university has pitched the biosciences buildings for a couple of years but has been unable to gain enough House support. That changed when the university and lawmakers refashioned the plan: The U would sell $292 million in bonds, and the state would agree to pay off about 80 percent. It's similar to the deal used to finance the University of Minnesota Gophers football stadium.

Hanson threw a wrench into the plan, though, when he argued the biosciences bonds must be counted in the capital bonding calculation.

Hanson's position changed the rules, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer. "This is the same (kind of) transaction as the stadium, and they didn't count the stadium, so I don't know what's going on."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty could look past the bonding guidelines and approve the biosciences buildings, Pfutzenreuter noted.

Given the state's tough budget outlook, however, that might be a hard sell. Pawlenty's office did not respond immediately to questions on the matter.

Hmm... Maybe football's different?

Is Mr. Pfutzenreuter really surprised?

Why these buildings should get a free pass while the campus core is being neglected is a mystery.

Yep, we got our HEAPR money slashed and the Senate proposal is suspiciously close to the governor's. They even seem to be ready to give the shaft to those nice people up in Morris, who are too busy teaching to participate in the ambitious research aspirations of OurLeader et al.

So lets go after half a billion for the next 25 years without any oversight and hope that no one notices the weak justification when compared to other more pressing needs.

Is this an example of great leadership or just another attempt to pull a fast one?
You make the call.

For further information please see:

University Of Minnesota / U leaders push bioscience buildings


If You Build It, Grants Will Come? Or, Could Someone at BigU Please Be Honest and Responsible About Expansion of Biomedical Research?


Trees Do Not Grow to The Sky or, Why the State Legislature Should Not Write a Blank Check to BigU for Biomedical Research Buildings

In the hope that priorities will change for the better at BigU. Let's start worrying about tuition stabilization, funding the core, and becoming one of the better universities in the BigTen. Time to close down Driven to Discover and drop the smokescreen of "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]."

Our students and our state deserve better.

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