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House tentatively okays campus construction bonds


AUSTIN — The Texas House on Wednesday tentatively approved the authorization of a package of bonds worth $3.1 billion to support construction on college campuses, continuing lawmakers’ hasty work on the subject.

The Senate is expected to consider a similar bill in the coming days, a sign that some lawmakers want to avoid the fate the bonds suffered in recent years. In past legislative sessions, the bonds have enjoyed broad support, but haven’t reached final approval before the sessions wrapped up.

After Wednesday’s vote, House Bill 100 by state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, must be voted on one more time before it can head to the Senate.

The bonds are paid off through tuition revenue, but they need legislative approval. University officials say they’re vital for keeping up with construction needs, especially at smaller regional campuses that can’t rely as much on major donor support.

Legislators haven’t approved the issuance of bonds in a decade, causing many campuses to delay projects.

This year, the bonds have attracted some opposition from fiscal conservatives. The advocacy group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has come out against the bill, saying that money for campus construction projects should come from legislative appropriations rather than bonds.

The legislation tentatively approved Wednesday would allow the University of Texas System to issue $927.6 million worth of bonds. The Texas A&M University System would be able to issue $805.8 million. The systems governing the University of Houston, Texas State University, the University of North Texas and Texas Tech University would be able to issue at least $250 million each.

MATTHEW WATKINS reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.