Nixon revisits bond proposal to fund university projects

Friday, July 3, 2009

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said higher education is not a limiting factor for the statewide bond initiative he has revisited in recent weeks.

"We certainly shouldn't limit something of this type, that would need to go in front of voters," Nixon said Thursday in Cape Girardeau.

He said he is continuing discussions with state legislators on the issue, which he resumed in a letter to members of the assembly last month. There would have to be bipart­isan support to initiate a special session, he said.

"We're not going to do this unless we have significant buy in from Democrats and Republicans and folks willing to put this together," he said.

Nixon wants to develop a bond proposal that would use financing methods enacted by Congress called the Build America bond program. To qualify, the bonds need to be issued by Jan. 1, 2011. Nixon said they would replace the cost of state building bonds issued in the early 1980s.

In May, a similar $800 million bond issue faltered in the state Senate. The measure was introduced in the House as a $700 million proposal to fund projects at universities. Southeast Missouri State University planned to use the funds to build and renovate science facilities if approved.

"I think the bottom line is we need to restore some predictability to the capital investments of the state," Nixon said. "And if the Democrats and the Republicans want to come together and this is an option for them, then we'll work together on it."

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder spoke out against the measure earlier this week saying it will not put Missourians back to work soon enough.

"The governor's bonding plan is nothing more than another government bailout that will put our state in debt for nearly a quarter of a century," he said in a statement.

In 2004, Kinder sponsored a $350 million bond proposal to fund higher education construction projects. He introduced the plan while he was serving as Senate president pro tem, representing the Cape Girardeau area.

"Year to year we're looking at dramatically different budget circumstances," said Gary McElyea, Kinder's spokesman to explain the change of positions from 2004.

Last week Nixon vetoed more than $100 million in stimulus money in the state budget that was to fund projects at universities, including Southeast's business incubator. McElyea said those projects will stimulate the economy more effectively than a voter-approved bond initiative that will take longer to go into effect and said the current plan lacks too many details.

"It's tough to jump behind or support a plan that is not clearly laid out," he said.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the plan was was not clear enough when it reached the Senate during the legislative session.

"I wouldn't buy a pair of jeans under these circumstances," he said.

Crowell said he has been in discussions with the governor's office and other legislators about his concerns, which include establishing criteria for projects funded by the bonds, an analysis of their affordability and when an election would be held to consider the measure.

"I'm waiting on information to convince me that this is the right thing to do," he said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

Jefferson City, MO

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