Thursday, April 3, 2014
By DAVID A. LIEB
Eds: Updates with quotes from senators and more details on bill. Adds byline.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A measure authorizing a $600 million bonding plan for state building improvements passed the Missouri Senate on Thursday and now heads to the House.
The bonding proposal would authorize $200 million of bonds for higher education institutions, $200 million for other state facilities and $200 million to replace aging buildings at the state mental health hospital in Fulton.
The Republican-led chamber passed the legislation 25-6, though some Republican lawmakers objected to taking on additional debt.
The revenue bonds would finance hundreds of repairs and improvements that have been delayed, in part, because state revenues fell during the recent recession. The specific projects are listed in a separate measure that could be considered by the Senate next week.
The projects include such things as roof repairs, the installation of emergency generators and fire alarm systems, and improvements to heating and air conditions equipment. Buildings from across the state are on the list, including colleges, prisons, the state Capitol, National Guard headquarters and Governor's Mansion.
"There's not a lot of glamour in this bill. These are just fundamental things I feel it's our obligation to do," said Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who is sponsoring the measure.
Supporters of the legislation said it's a good time for bonding because interest rates are still relatively low.
But some Republicans said the bonding plan amounted to an indictment of poor leadership by their own party, because past budgets failed to pay for all of the needed repairs as problems arose.
Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, said it would have been better to pay for the maintenance with cash. He bemoaned that colleagues were adopting "the pragmatic solution," which he said was "to go raise the debt ceiling, borrow more money and then spend it."
Bonding bill is SB723.
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