Friday, January 15, 2010

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

A Preview of Coming Attractions...

Governor Pawlenty Sets Bonding Priorities for the State

And remember, the governor almost always gets what he wants in the final bonding bill. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist or a university president to figure out why.

From the Pioneer Press:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Friday proposed borrowing $685 million for a relatively modest public works program that provides no money for local projects, athletic or arts facilities or anything else he considered nonessential.

It is the smallest bonding bill the Republican governor has proposed. The average price tag for public works bills over the past 10 years has been $725 million.

But this one may grow. The chairs of the House and Senate capital investment committees, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said the Democrats who control the Legislature still intend to pass a nearly $1 billion bonding bill early this session, which starts Feb. 4.

Nearly half the money would go to preserving existing buildings and other structures.

"Taking care of what we have is our first priority, rather than building something new," state Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson said.

State colleges and universities would get the largest share of the funding, 30 percent. The University of Minnesota would get $100 million; the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would receive $93 million.

The bulk of the U funding would go for the physics and nanotechnology building in Minneapolis. It would replace the physics building, which was built in 1923 and lacks adequate and up-to-date lab space for research, said Steven Crouch, dean of the U's Institute of Technology.

The new building would house research laboratories, not classrooms, Crouch said.

For state colleges and universities, more than half the funding Pawlenty proposed is earmarked for "asset preservation," such as repairing windows and roofs and replacing heating and electrical systems.

Langseth [Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon] said Pawlenty's proposal for those schools is "way low. He's coming in with less than one-third of their request. Those things have all got to be done. Now is the time we can be doing them the cheapest and putting unemployed people to work."

Hausman [Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul] agreed. "We should take advantage of the one positive in bad economic times, which is bids come in low and low interest rates," she said.

But House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the price tag for Pawlenty's plan is "a little bit high" and predicted Republicans would try to pare it down.

Executive summary:

We've seen this all in the past.

The governor usually gets what he wants, at least while there are enough Republicans in the legislature to make an override of his veto unlikely. Zeller's comments make this seem virtually impossible.

So working on the assumption that the final figure will be in the area of $700 mil, the question is how to spend the money in the most intelligent way. I don't think the governor has done this.

The priorities for money being spent at the U of M are - as usual - out of whack. We will see how much President Bruininks is in favor of supporting our educational mission by whether he is willing to delay the nano building in favor of doing right by Folwell. It is hard for higher ed, under the circumstances, to claim that the governor has not done right by them, given their 30% cut of the funding.

I suggest that using some of the budget for nano planning and some for finally doing the right thing for Folwell - something that our president has avoided for the past three years.

Don't hold your breath. Leadership and the ability to adapt to reality have been in short supply in Morrill Hall since 2002.

Added Sunday, Jan 17, from Rochester Post-Bulletin:

Pawlenty warned political opponents in the Legislature not to send him a bonding bill greatly different than what he has proposed, saying he would reject such a bill entirely.

"They shouldn't count on the fact that it's just going to be line-item vetoed down," he said.

Given the fact that the governor is now playing to a national audience, this threat is credible.

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