ST. PAUL — After making her case to legislators this week, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel says she's optimistic about receiving some of the state assistance the system is requesting from the state's bonding package — but not enough to deal with the system's backlog of maintenance needs.

With legislators starting to tackle item number-one of their 2020 session to-do list, the state's bonding package, Gabel testified to three legislative committees on Tuesday, Feb. 18 and Thursday, Feb. 20, about state bonding needs across the system's five campuses. The university requested a total of $317.2 million in bonding from the state this year, $117 million of which for four major projects, and $200 million for maintenance needs.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in his $2.03 billion bonding package proposed $448 million for higher education, $224.2 million of which for the university. $125 million of that allocation would go toward maintenance, or Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funds — $75 million short of what the university says it needs.

Without those funds, Gabel told Forum News Service "we fall behind." The university already has a backlog of maintenance needs, and Gabel said it will only get longer without full funding.

"We would never put a student in an unsafe environment, but we it just takes us a lot longer and makes it harder for us to keep up," she said.

Still, she said she's grateful for the funding Walz has proposed. And although "it's hard to give a dollar amount of confidence," she said she is feeling confident that "there will be a bonding bill, and that we will be in the bonding bill."

Walz's bonding proposal does fully fund three of the four projects the school has requested: Construction of a new child development building and chemistry lab in the Twin Cities, as well as renovations to a classroom building in Duluth.

Walz did not allocate any bonding in his proposal for the fourth project proposed by the university, planning for a clinical research facility also slated for the Cities.