JEFFERSON CITY — A multi-hundred million dollar bond, slated for higher education “life science” construction projects statewide, took a step forward Wednesday evening when the Senate gave the bill first-round approval.
Although the bill won preliminary approval, several provisions were added that could cause it to face strong opposition in the House, including:
The size of the bond now measures $377.5 million. Community colleges would receive $22.5 million from the bond. The University of Missouri system would receive about $195 million, with about $90 million of that going to the MU campus.
Approval came despite an addition by Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, that would increase taxes on businesses and generate about $50 million per year. That money would pay off debt from the bond and then, with the leftovers, help fund financial aid for Missouri college students.
Missouri businesses would be able to earn tax credits by hiring students who graduate from schools receiving money from the bond.
Jacob said his plan would give the state a viable way to fund bond payments.
There are 16 projects and 14 schools on the list. The projects are supposed to further research in areas such as biology, chemistry and genetics.
Wednesday night was the first time in months that action had been taken on the bond. The bill has floated around the Senate since February.
At that time, President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, and Jacob reached an agreement where Jacob would end his filibuster against changing Southwest Missouri State University’s name to Missouri State University.
In return, Kinder would have introduced a bond bill for the UM system only.
During the debate, Kinder said that both the name change and the bond would be linked together— if one passed, then the other would pass. But Jacob said that was never part of the deal.
That both Jacob and Kinder are vying for the lieutenant governor’s seat — a fact that Jacob was quick to pounce on — has also complicated the matter.
“Sen. Kinder has become very snuggly with higher education,” Jacob said.
UM system lobbyist Steve Knorr said the system would remain cautious about its chances of securing the money.
“In this business, you take everything one step at a time,” he said.