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House Tentatively OKs Campus Construction Bond Plan

The Texas House on Wednesday tentatively approved a package of bonds worth $3.1 billion to support construction on college campuses. Legislators haven't authorized such spending in a decade.

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, talks with a colleague after he was named an HB1 budget conferee on May 6, 2011.

The Texas House on Wednesday tentatively approved the authorization of a package of bonds worth $3.1 billion to support construction on college campuses, continuing lawmakers’ hasty work on the subject.  

The Senate is expected to consider a similar bill in the coming days, a sign that some lawmakers want to avoid the fate the bonds suffered in recent years. In past legislative sessions, the bonds have enjoyed broad support, but haven’t reached final approval before the sessions wrapped up. 

After Wednesday's vote, House Bill 100 by state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, must be voted on one more time before it can head to the Senate. 

The bonds are secured with tuition revenue, but the Legislature approves them and has historically used general revenue to pay them off. University officials say they’re vital for keeping up with construction needs, especially at smaller regional campuses that can’t rely as much on major donor support.

Legislators haven’t approved the issuance of bonds in a decade, causing many campuses to delay projects. 

This year, the bonds have attracted some opposition from fiscal conservatives. The advocacy group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has come out against the bill, saying that money for campus construction projects should come from legislative appropriations rather than bonds.

The legislation tentatively approved Wednesday would allow the University of Texas System to issue $927.6 million worth of bonds. The Texas A&M University System would be able to issue $805.8 million. The systems governing the University of Houston, Texas State University, the University of North Texas and Texas Tech University would be able to issue at least $250 million each. 

Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System, the University of Houston and the Texas State University System are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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