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Hearings Begin on Billion-Dollar Bond Issue

Posted: Feb 5, 2013 7:22 PM by Garrett Bergquist
Updated: Feb 5, 2013 7:37 PM

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JEFFERSON CITY - Hearings began Tuesday on a proposed billion-dollar bond meant to fund a variety of projects in the state.

Rep. Chris Kelly, the Columbia Democrat in charge of the committee tasked with the issue, said the bond issue would not be able to address every infrastructure project in the state, but it would contribute significantly to the state's economy. Kelly said he would like to see the bond issue combined with the transportation funding proposal announced Tuesday morning.

"I hope that we find a way to comfortably combine the highway proposal and the general revenue proposal," he said, "and I think we can do that."

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said the need for infrastructure improvements statewide is "at a crisis level." Jones did not explicitly state whether he wanted the bond issue to be combined with the highway proposal, but he said he was not above combining them.

"Each proposal will live and die on its own merits," Jones said.

The house proposal discussed Tuesday is similar to a bond issue in the senate sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. Kelly said he is in close contact with Schaefer on the bond issue.

Representatives from a number of colleges and universities spoke in favor of the bond issue at Tuesday night's hearing. University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe said the system's four campuses have about $1.3 billion worth of projects on hold due to lack of state funds, including renovations to Lafferre Hall on the MU campus. Other representatives told the committee their universities had hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of projects on hold.

Nobody spoke against the bond issue at the hearing, but opponents to past bond issue proposals have cited fears about borrowing money against an uncertain future.

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