San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COVER: Texas State’s historic, hilltop Old Main is currently undergoing a $3.5 million roof repair. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONADO FOR THE SAN MARCOS MERCURY

by REEVE HAMILTON

Billions of dollars in bonds for construction projects at higher-education campuses across Texas would get the go-ahead under legislation approved Tuesday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 16 by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow for the state to move forward on “tuition revenue bonds,” the Legislature’s traditional means of financing campus construction, for 60 projects at 58 institutions and university system facilities. The bill would authorize about $2.4 billion in tuition revenue bonds, which would help finance an expected $4.1 billion in construction costs.

The University of Texas System, with more than $690 million authorized, and Texas A&M University System, with more than $640 million authorized, are the two largest beneficiaries of tuition revenue bonds in the bill.

Specific projects around the state include $95 million for an engineering education and research center at the University of Texas at Austin,  $53 million for a biocontainment research facility at Texas A&M University, $70 million for a pharmacy and biomedical sciences building at the University of Houston, and $83 million for an engineering and science building at Texas State University in San Marcos.

There was no discussion or debate of the bill in the Senate Chamber. It passed easily, with only one objection. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The Legislature is typically expected to pass a tuition revenue bond package every other regular session, but no such authorizations have been made since 2006.

In a statement provided to the Senate Research Center for its analysis of the bill, Zaffirini noted that the chancellors and presidents of higher-education institutions around the state had testified to their need for state support to complete their desired construction projects.

“Funding these needs is timely, especially because interest rates are relatively low, as are construction costs, and rapid enrollment in higher education over the last decade has strained the state’s aging existing infrastructure,” she said. ” The state must invest now to ensure the education of a booming population to meet the needs of a modern economy and secure Texas’ economic vitality.”

Zaffirini bill funds Texas State system construction across the state

Zaffirini bill funds Texas State system construction across the state

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The campus construction bill approved Tuesday by the Texas Senate includes $224 million for projects at the Texas State University System, more than 60 percent of which is earmarked for Texas State in San Marcos and Round Rock:

$40 million for a science building at Lamar University in Beaumont

$21 million for a multipurpose education building at Lamar State College-Orange.

$2.5 million for an addition to the allied health building at Lamar State College-Port Arthur

$12 million for renovation and replacement of the technical arts buildings at Lamar Institute of Technology in Beaumont

$56 million for a joint project between Texas State University and the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center for a medical education and research building in Round Rock

$83 million for an engineering and science building at Texas State in San Marcos

$9.8 million for an agriculture engineering technology building at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

The legislation was co-authored by State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, whose district includes eastern Hays County. It must now be approved by the Texas House of Representatives.

REEVE HAMILTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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