JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's top legislative leaders lent their support Monday to a $190 million bond plan that would help build six engineering and health sciences facilities at the University of Missouri.
House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder described the plan as an economic development tool that could create "knowledge-based jobs" and result in both immediate and long-term economic growth.
"Creating jobs is job number one for our state," said Hanaway, R-Warson Woods. "This proposal is a smart investment."
Hanaway and Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, were announcing their support for the proposal at news conferences in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City -- the hometowns of three of the university's four campuses. The other campus is in Rolla.
The Republican lawmakers promoted the plan just one week after Democratic Gov. Bob Holden outlined his own plan to create jobs by issuing bonds for public infrastructure projects.
Kinder said he was unfamiliar with Holden's plan and the university building program was not intended as an alternative.
"This proposal represents a remarkable opportunity for the university and all of Missouri," Kinder said. "It will strengthen our state as a major research center and secure better jobs and education opportunities our state needs to sustain our long-term economic recovery."
Under the plan developed by the university, the bonds would be issued through the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority and would require the approval of the legislature and governor.
To pay off the bonds, the state would make an annual projected appropriation of $11.6 million beginning in the 2008 fiscal year. The expanded facilities could help the university bring in 40 new endowed-chair professors using state, private and university funds, Kinder and Hanaway said.
The university estimates that for every $1 the state invests in life sciences projects, an additional $5 could be raised through federal and private funds. Over 10 years, the university said it could generate about $1 billion. Many of the projects to be funded by the bonds have been on the university's wish list for several years, but have not received any state funding because of tight budgets.
Holden's budget director, Linda Luebbering, said the university building projects are "not a proposal that we have been even considering, because it's not a mandatory spending item."