Objections to UM bond measure melt

Former critics, who now support a $190.4 million bond to the UM system, say their concern is alleviated.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:34 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said Monday that the University of Missouri system may well be able to secure its prized construction money.

Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, had been one of the $190.4 million bond’s most vocal critics.

In an interview Monday, Russell said that his reservations about the bond, which was tied to the Southwest Missouri State University name change, have been eased.

“My concern was not necessarily against the bond proposal,” he said. “But it was about the sequence of events.”

Several other members of the Senate who initially disapproved of the linkage between money and the name change also agreed that the bond may well be issued to the UM system.

“The bottom line is, I don’t like tying the name change to (the bond), but it seemed to be the only option,” said Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, one of the name-change bill’s sponsors.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, initially proposed the bill. Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, added the bond issue to help end a five-day filibuster.

But the bond raised a considerable amount of controversy within the Senate, and some — including Russell — strongly suggested the bond issue ought to be killed.

That hostility, rooted in technical and procedural questions, has since changed.

“They were violently opposed to the lack of an appropriation process,” said Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood. “They wanted that process to study the bill and make a reasonable determination.”

Gibbons said he expected the bond proposal to be introduced into the House this week, helping fulfill another major technical requirement for appropriating money.

While some senators put a positive face on last week’s tension, others cautioned that the bill is not yet entirely certain to pass.

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, initially supported the bond, saying he wanted to get some value in return for what he felt was the UM system’s name. Now, Jacob says he does not think the bond is passable.

“The way some schools look at it is that they get no benefit from the cost of the bonds,” he said. “And nobody knows where the money will come from.”

Also, only the UM system stands to gain from the bond issue. Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis, said that could also raise concerns from legislators who represent other educational institutions.

“There’s a lot of people with institutions that want to present their needs,” Goode said.

The bill, if enacted, would change the name of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University. Its supporters say the name change will help the school market itself to prospective students.

In return, the UM system would receive $190.4 million, which would be used to fund a massive life science center at MU, among other projects.

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