JEFFERSON CITY — Political fighting delayed a vote on a bill authorizing bonds for higher education in the Senate Monday.
The bill, which began as an authorization for $90 million in bonds for life sciences in the UM system, has been expanded to authorize $350 million in bonds for higher education across the state. That has upset some senators.
Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, questioned whether all of the projects included fall under the category of life sciences.
But his bigger question was why the state was putting its limited resources toward higher education bonds instead of fixing its roads.
“What I have to explain to the person in Lee’s Summit is I would vote for something that gives $8.3 million to Linn State for collision repair, rather than spend that $8.3 million building an overpass over 50 Highway so people won’t die there like they’re doing now,” he said.
The bill’s sponsor, Pres. Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said the legislature already has close to $1 billion in bonds funding highway improvements. He said life sciences funding is an important step to keep Missouri students in the state.
“If we don’t take steps like this, we’re not in the game,” Kinder said.
Kinder and Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, made a deal earlier in the session linking passage of the bond bill to the name change of Southwest Missouri State University.
The current version of the bill includes a provision where it only becomes effective if the legislature changes the name of SMSU to Missouri State University.
However, Jacob said he will not vote for the bond bill in its current form for other reasons. He said it goes beyond the original scope of the bill, which pertained only to life sciences projects within the UM system.
“It’s a life science project that includes non-life-science projects,” he said.
Bartle said projects for institutions across the state were added in order to gain support for the bill.
He said senators were “lined up at the trough” to get their interests included.
Jacob would also like to see a method for funding attached to the bill because he fears it will result in a tuition increase for students.
But Kinder said he’s confident the bill has support, citing the unanimous vote it received when it was passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I don’t believe that there are five votes against it on the floor of the Missouri Senate,” he said.
The bill was set aside without a vote Monday and could be taken up again on the Senate floor at any time.