JEFFERSON CITY — The University of Missouri system could gain roughly $190 million under an agreement between two top state senators.
The agreement, still being discussed, was brokered after a six-hour filibuster by Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.
It would allow Southwest Missouri State to change its name to Missouri State University, and it would provide extra money to help fund construction of the performing arts center, convention center and hotel on the MU campus, among other things.
The bond proposal initially raised the intense ire of many senators, who voiced serious concerns about both the size of the bond and how it was being issued.
“If we’re really going to feel like Santa Claus in the Senate today, let’s just give everything to everyone,” said Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia.
Specifically, the senators questioned the legality and propriety of adding an amendment — without a hearing — that effectively appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars.
Dissension over the bond proposal reached across party lines.
“This is $200 million that, in a very short amount of time, we’re going to say, ‘OK, let’s go and do this thing,’” said Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles. “It’s irresponsible. There are other ways to compromise.”
Earlier in the day, Jacob had insisted that he would not allow the SMSU name change to occur, likening it to “identity theft.”
Later in the afternoon, however, he appeared to change course, open to the swap of money for naming rights.
“Jacob and other opponents of the naming bill said they feared that a name change would reduce funding for the UM system overall. But supporters say that the change is primarily a marketing tool for the school and would have little effect on the UM system.
“When you are able to use the name to reflect what the school is doing, that will help you market it,” said Norma Champion, R-Springfield, one of the bill’s proponents. “I believe it will strengthen higher education throughout the state.”
Jacob’s filibuster ended in the early evening when Kinder, the name-change bill’s sponsor, put the bill aside for later debate.
“This has been an education for all of us,” he said. “We’re trying to do what we think needs to be done. We are making good faith efforts to work something out.”