College bonding bill clears Missouri Senate committee

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 12:38 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate committee approved a resolution Wednesday to sell bonds that would pay for renovations on college campuses.

The measure, promoted by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would authorize the General Assembly to issue up to $800 million in bonds for capital improvement projects.

A bond is an IOU taken out by the government. The person who buys a bond loans money to the state in exchange for a predetermined interest rate.

At least $550 million of the proposed bond would go to campus renovations. Up to $250 million of the funding could be used for construction on state buildings and projects.

This would be the fifth college building fund backed by issuing bonds. Kelly's last bond project was in 1982, which issued about $600 million in bonds.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the resolution 7-4 on Wednesday. If it is approved by the full Senate, voters will see it on a ballot in  November.

Kelly gave the committee a list of needed construction and renovation projects, including:

  • $47.8 million for renovation of Laferre Hall at MU.
  • $55 million for construction of a science and math facility at Central Missouri State University. 
  • $58 million for various projects at 12 community colleges.
  • $553 million for engineering equipment for the four campuses of the University of Missouri System

The legislature is not required to follow the list, which represents top needs outlined by the state's Coordinating Board for Higher Education. Lawmakers will determine what projects are funded if the bond sale is approved by voters.

Kelly told the committee that there is $1.7 billion in state need.

"There is a number of state buildings we need to fix," Kelly said. "If we can get some significant state work done here, we'll have progress."

The state is not required to pay for capital improvement projects on college campuses. Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, voiced concern that the legislature would be setting a precedent for how the projects will be funded in the future.

"We're getting on a slippery slope now that we're doing construction on community colleges as well," Green said. It is "becoming the state's responsibility."

The resolution comes after Gov. Jay Nixon suspended some of the funds for higher education building projects — some of which were to be funded by the sale of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority's assets.

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, questioned if he should be asked to vote on funding new projects even though the MOHELA funded construction in his district has stalled.

"I haven't gotten fulfillment on the promise we had last time," Purgason said.

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