by BRAD ROLLINS
The Texas State University System could pursue campus construction projects totaling about $213.5 million — including $73.3 million for an engineering and sciences building in San Marcos — under a bill approved by a key Texas House committee last week.
Tuition revenue bonds for universities statewide have broad bipartisan support in both chambers but are still at the mercy of Gov. Rick Perry who must add tuition revenue bonds to the scope of issues on which legislators can take action during the ongoing special session, scheduled to end in little more than two weeks.
With the Senate’s approval of new abortion regulations on Thursday — passage of which the governor had set as the session’s top priority — tuition revenue bonds could be added the charge any day. Or maybe not.
“The message we’ve gotten back is, he’s keeping an open mind and watching to see the progress of the other pieces of legislation that he has set on the call,” Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the House Higher Education chair told the Texas Tribune.
The current legislation, HB5, would allow university systems to borrow money to pay for 62 campus construction projects. Under tuition revenue bonds, the promise of future student tuition is essentially used as collateral for the loans. HB5 was unanimously approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 8 but the panel’s chairman, Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said he would not send it to the full house unless Perry gives lawmakers the go-ahead.
Late last week, State Rep. John Raney, whose district includes Texas A&M, Perry’s beloved alma mater, publicly called on the governor to add tuition revenue bonds to the sessions’s scope
”By not addressing Tuition Revenue Bonds, higher education will take a substantial hit. Institutions must have a reliable, low-interest, long-term source of funding to construct, renovate, and equip their buildings, roads, and infrastructure. Institutions’ hands are tied and growth is stifled if we, the Legislature and the Governor, don’t provide an additional funding source sooner rather than later,” Raney said.
The current allocations for the Texas State University System include:
- $34 million for a science building at Lamar University in Beaumont
- $14,22,400 for a multipurpose education building at Lamar State College-Orange.
- $2,180,000 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.
- $44.8 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
- $73,265,729 for an engineering and science building at Texas State in San Marcos
- $31,720,000 for a biology, nursing and allied health building at Sam Houston State University in Houston.
- $3.4 million for various renovations at Sul Ross University.