Sunday March 9, 2014
Governor Urges Legislature to Fund Capital Improvements for Oregon UniversitiesSalem-News.com
Governor tours Portland State University and meets with students to discuss connection between badly needed maintenance and improvements and academic opportunity.
(PORTLAND) - On Monday, during a tour of Lincoln Hall at Portland State University, Governor Ted Kulongoski urged state lawmakers to restore capital construction funding for urgently needed maintenance and improvements for Oregon’s universities and community colleges to the 2007-2009 budget. “In order to compete in the global economy, we need to have the most skilled, highly educated workforce in the country. We can’t do that if our classrooms are crumbling, our labs have limited capacity and our students can’t access the coursework they need to graduate,” the Governor told a group of students during a roundtable discussion. “We need to stop the trend of disinvestment in our colleges and universities. And that begins with the funding levels I proposed in my budget.” Under the Governor’s proposed budget, state universities would receive $325 million through state bonding for construction projects, including $89 million for deferred maintenance and seismic remediation.
That funding was reduced by 85 percent to $50 million under the initial budget released by the co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee last month.
The Ways and Means Committee is currently examining potential revisions to their budget before sending it to the full Legislature for consideration. “The Senate took a landmark step forward last week, passing the Shared Responsibility Model so we can make higher education truly affordable for all Oregonians,” the Governor said. “But affordability is an empty promise without first rate faculty, state-of-the-art research facilities, modern buildings and adequate maintenance. That’s why we must invest in our buildings and our students and faculty.” The Governor began his visit to Portland State with a tour of Lincoln Hall, which was originally constructed in 1911 and was given to the University in 1949 because it was deemed unusable by Portland Public Schools.
The building was condemned by the city several years ago, but continues to be used for classes under a waiver due to the lack of classroom space at the University. “How can we expect our students to excel when they are attending class in a building with tiles falling off the ceiling and walls that are compromised?” the Governor asked. “With hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance across the Oregon University System, we simply cannot push these projects off to another budget, another legislature or another generation of students.” In addition to Lincoln Hall, the Governor’s proposed budget would pay for critically needed improvement projects across the state, including:
University of Oregon - Maintenance and seismic improvements to Fenton Hall, which was constructed in 1905 and requires replacement of heating system, doors, windows and its plumbing.
Oregon State University – Reconstruction of the university’s electrical grid, which failed in March leaving the campus blacked out for two days.
Western Oregon University – Seismic upgrades to the Humanities and Social Science facilities, including mechanical and electrical systems deficiencies. In addition to capital investments in the universities, the Governor’s budget includes $86 million for capital construction for Oregon’s 17 community colleges. The Co-Chairs budget reduced that investment by 90% for capitol expenditures The Governor also applauded the action last week by the Senate Revenue Committee, who voted to restore capital investments cut in the Co-chair’s budget, increasing the level of capital construction bonding to 80 percent of the Governor’s budget.
The Governor will continue fighting to ensure that the final state budget for the next biennium makes the needed investments in the state’s universities and community colleges.
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