Branch: There’s Hope for Campus Construction Bonds

The House higher education chairman Dan Branch says Gov. Perry is listening to calls for campus construction to be added to the call.

Campus Construction Bonds Move Into Legislative Limbo

The Texas House appropriations committee gave tentative approval to House Bill 5 on Thursday, which authorizes and appropriates millions of dollars for construction and maintenance projects at public colleges across Texas.

Appropriations chair Jim Pitts thanked his fellow legislators for their support of the measure, a near-duplicate of which was passed by the House in the regular session. That version died when the House and Senate failed to make an eleventh-hour deal.  House higher education chair Dan Branch (R-Dallas), the bill’s author, outlined the measure before it was passed and referred to the calendars committee, which schedules bills to be considered by the full House.

The mechanism for funding these projects, tuition revenue bonds (TRBs), provide debt service for the costs incurred by new construction or maintenance. The current legislation would partially fund 62 projects around the state, including funding 100 percent of projects at three brand new universities.

But until Gov. Rick Perry adds the issue of tuition revenue bonds to the special session agenda, projects like UT-Austin’s proposed Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) are stuck in legislative limbo.

Branch says he believes the governor’s office wants to finish business still pending from the regular session before moving on to other topics.

“It’s hope that by passing this today and moving it to the calendars committee, we’re in a position to move quickly should the governor add [TRBs] to the call.”

Legislators like Pitts and Branch hope to convince Perry that the bonds, not passed since 2006, will keep Texas competitive both economically and academically. He points to the EERC as an example of a project that will not only keep talented students in Texas, but attract students and faculty to Texas. Branch says he has spoken to Perry on the topic, and worked closly with the governor’s senior staff.

“My sense is that he’s heard from a lot of people around the state,” Branch says, “and so I think he’s paying attention.”

A number of higher education supporters and some newspaper editorial boards have urged Perry in recent weeks to add TRBs to the call.

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes supports tuition revenue bonds legislation. You can read the Texas Exes’ legislative priorities here.

 

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