Friday, January 29, 2010

Precinct Caucus- Next Tuesday

As a reminder, evening classes (starting at or running past 6 p.m.) will not meet next Tuesday, February 2, 2010. This is the date of precinct caucuses. For more information, please visit the General Counsel Web site. To find out where the caucus in your area will be held, please visit the Secretary of State's Web site.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bonding keeps moving, budget discussions begin

One step closer to a bonding bill

The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division met yesterday to listen to the higher education bonding requests from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota. Chancellor Jim McCormick and Associate Vice Chancellor Al Johnson provided an overview of the $396 million request ($301 million without user financing). Chancellor McCormick told committee members that the request is a product of long range capital planning at each college and university.

Al Johnson educated committee members about the system’s bonding process. He said the evaluation process of projects focused on sustainability, to preserve and take care of existing facilities. New space had to be fully justified based on enrollment and program requirements. Johnson also overviewed the system’s top priority of HEAPR at $110 million. Johnson said the HEAPR budget allocation is based on the college and university priorities as well as keeping everyone “warm, safe and dry.”

Each college and university with a project on the system’s bonding list presented the details of their project to committee members. Minnesota State University, Mankato explained the importance of their project for design money for a clinical science building as an anchor to the core of the university. President Richard Davenport said the Allied Health programs are currently scattered over multiple buildings. Davenport said the focus of the building is to graduate more students in STEM fields and get them into the workforce.

Rep. Rosenthal, DFL-Edina, testified on behalf of Normandale Community College’s project for an academic partnership center and student services building, and informed committee members that the college is bursting at the seams. President Joe Opatz explained the critical need for classroom space at the college, and said that the college is the largest community college in the system, serving 15,000 students.

Students and faculty also testified on behalf of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding request. Jennifer Weil, Minnesota State University Student Association state chair, testified that the system’s number one priority of HEAPR is also the students’ first priority. Rod Henry and Russ Stanton with the IFO also spoke in support of the system's full bonding request. Stanton told members that the system needs to maintain what they have.

Committee members were asked to rank the projects for both the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota. The committee will be hearing about economic development bonding projects today and will then forward a recommendation based on the committee rankings to the Capital Investment Committee.

Capital Investment Chair, Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, has said she hopes to move a bill quickly through the process with the potential to get a bill to the floor by mid-February.

Budget discussions begin

After the committee heard about the bonding projects, committee fiscal analyst Doug Berg explained to members the current budget situation. He reminded lawmakers that the state needs to resolve the $1.2 billion budget deficit yet this biennium. Berg also explained that because of federal maintenance of effort standards in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, no general fund reductions can be made to higher education in fiscal year 2010 and no more than $46.6 million total may be taken in general fund reductions to higher education in fiscal year 2011.

Berg also explained to the committee that the Office of Higher Education is projecting a $42 million shortfall in the state grant in fiscal year 2011. Committee members discussed the shortfall and what it means to students. Chair Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said that the committee has a number of options on how to fill the shortfall. He also stated that he doesn’t recall a time where the Legislature cut the state grant program.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, recalled the tough financial times in the early 1980’s, but said they did not cut financial aid, but rather increased it. Mark Misukanis, Director of Fiscal Policy and Research for the Office of Higher Education, said the office is trying to be thoughtful in their recommendations regarding the financial aid program.

We can expect further discussions regarding the budget situation once the 2010 legislative session begins Feb. 4.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bonding update

Bonding process moving full steam ahead

Weeks before the start of the 2010 legislative session Feb. 4, the capitol has been buzzing with legislative activity. The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota this week regarding each system's bonding request, and then forwarded a higher education bonding recommendation to the Senate Capital Investment committee, which includes recommendation that the bonding projects put forth by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota be included in the 2010 capital investment bill.

Trustee Clarence Hightower, Chancellor Jim McCormick and Al Johnson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities testified Tuesday in the Senate on behalf of the $396.8 million request put forth by the system.

Trustee Hightower explained the Board of Trustees' involvement in the capital budget process, and told members that the Board's active engagement in the process began with approval of the Budget Guidelines in 2008. Hightower said, "The guidelines require that projects must meet the academic imperatives of promoting learning, responding to workforce needs, fostering partnerships between institutions and communities, and enabling innovation."

Chancellor McCormick told committee members that the system has heard legislators' concerns about having bonding projects ready to go in order to produce jobs needed by the workforce. McCormick said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding proposal will produce and retain upwards of 8,000 jobs across the industry and state, as early as this spring if a bill is approved early.

Associate Vice Chancellor Al Johnson spoke in detail about the projects that make up the request. Members were told that ten projects totaling $118.8 million support delivery of science, technology, engineering and math programs, known as STEM. Forty-six percent of the request goes to metro area campuses to respond to enrollment growth and increase programs leading to bachelor’s degrees, and 54 percent of the request goes to colleges and universities outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Johnson also said that the proposal directly affects 1.2 million square feet, of which almost 75 percent, or 900,000 square feet of existing space, will be renovated or renewed, with only approximately 330,000 new square feet.

The governor has also weighed in this week with his bonding recommendation. The governor's bill totals $685 million in general obligation financing. You may review his entire recommendation at the following link here.

Specifically for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the governor is recommending to fund $50 million in HEAPR; $14.8 million for the North Hennepin Community College Business and Technology Center; $3.9 million for the general classroom renovation and demolition at seven campuses; $12.1 million for Lake Superior College's Health Science Center addition; $5.5 million for Mesabi Range Community and Technical College's shop space addition and renovation; $5.4 million for the Allied Health Center renovation at St. Cloud Technical College and $23 million for Normandale Community College's Academic Partnership Center. The total recommendation for the system is $114.7, or $93 million if you remove the $22 million the system would pay in user financing. Attached please find a spreadsheet illustrating the governor's recommendations.

At today's press conference presenting the governor's bonding recommendation, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson said for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the focus was on institutions bursting at the seams, and he gave the example of Normandale Community College. He also talked about how he personally visited the majority of the bonding requests and saw portable bathrooms in the parking lot at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College.

The governor and legislative leaders did meet this week to discuss budget issues, including bonding. Session Daily reports that according to Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the governor expressed willingness to sign off on several key pieces of legislation she said would be passed within the first two weeks of session, including a bonding bill.

The next step in the process is the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division will hear higher education bonding requests Tuesday, Jan. 26 beginning at 9 a.m. As was done in the Senate higher ed committee, the House will forward a recommendation to the Capital Investment committee. Once the Capital Investment committees receive all finance division recommendations, they will begin holding hearings and crafting a bill.

Early bill introductions

House members pre-filed over 200 bills this week prior to the scheduled convening of the 2010 legislative session. Since this session is considered a bonding session and the focus is traditionally on capital investment projects, many of those bills are related to projects that lawmakers hope to have included in a bonding bill. Of the 212 bills filed this week, those that relate to higher education can be found on the attached spreadsheet. Early bill introductions for the Senate are expected Jan. 25.

Here's what's happening at the Capitol...

Tuesday, January 19

1:00 PM
Senate Economic Development and Housing Budget Division
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. David J. Tomassoni
S.F. XXXX-Pogemiller: Minneapolis sculpture garden.
S.F. XXXX-Pogemiller: Granary Road Bill.
S.F. XXXX-Higgins: Target Center Improvements.
S.F. XXXX-Rosen: Winnebago museum.
S.F. XXXX-Prettner Solon: Western Lake Superior Sanitary Sewer District.
S.F. XXXX-Lynch: Workforce co-location.
S.F. 381-Lynch: Rochester Mayo civic center complex renovation bond issue and appropriation.
S.F. XXXX-Dille: Dassel Cokato ice sports center.
S.F. XXXX-Sheran: Gaylord aquatic center.
S.F. XXXX-Sheran: Southern Minnesota women's hockey exposition center and Minnesota State University Mankato performing arts center.
S.F. XXXX-Ingebrigtsen: Kensington Area Heritage Society museum.

Thursday, January 21

10:00 AM
House Capital Investment Finance Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Alice Hausman
Governor's Capital Budget Recommendations
Update on New Debt Service Guidelines
Public Comment

Monday, January 25

1:00 PM
Subcommittee on Charter Schools
Room: TBA
Chair: Sen. Kathy L. Saltzman
Agenda: To be announced.

Tuesday, January 26

House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Higher education bonding bills and projects
Budget reduction discussion

Wednesday, January 27

8:00 AM
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Local government, economic development bonding bills

Thursday, February 4

12:00 PM
House and Senate Convene