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Senate Approves Bonds for Campus Construction Projects

Construction projects at higher-education campuses across the state would get an infusion of $2.4 billion through a bill that senators approved Tuesday. The measure now goes to the House.

Students on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

Billions of dollars in bonds for construction projects at higher-education campuses across Texas would get the go-ahead under legislation approved Tuesday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 16 by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow for the state to move forward on "tuition revenue bonds," the Legislature's traditional means of financing campus construction, for 60 projects at 58 institutions and university system facilities. The bill would authorize about $2.4 billion in tuition revenue bonds, which would help finance an expected $4.1 billion in construction costs.

The University of Texas System, with more than $690 million authorized, and Texas A&M University System, with more than $640 million authorized, are the two largest beneficiaries of tuition revenue bonds in the bill.

Specific projects around the state include $95 million for an engineering education and research center at the University of Texas at Austin,  $53 million for a biocontainment research facility at Texas A&M University, $70 million for a pharmacy and biomedical sciences building at the University of Houston, and $83 million for an engineering and science building at Texas State University in San Marcos.

There was no discussion or debate of the bill in the Senate Chamber. It passed easily, with only one objection. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The Legislature is typically expected to pass a tuition revenue bond package every other regular session, but no such authorizations have been made since 2006. 

In a statement provided to the Senate Research Center for its analysis of the bill, Zaffirini noted that the chancellors and presidents of higher-education institutions around the state had testified to their need for state support to complete their desired construction projects.

"Funding these needs is timely, especially because interest rates are relatively low, as are construction costs, and rapid enrollment in higher education over the last decade has strained the state's aging existing infrastructure," she said. " The state must invest now to ensure the education of a booming population to meet the needs of a modern economy and secure Texas' economic vitality."

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