House Launches Bond Issue Effort

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JEFFERSON CITY - House leaders from both parties said Wednesday they were eager to work on ideas for a nearly billion-dollar bond proposal for education and state infrastructure.

House Speaker Tim Jones, a Republican from Eureka, said he had put Columbia Democratic Rep. Chris Kelly in charge of a committee tasked with evaluating bond issue proposals. Kelly said he felt the bond issue could be the biggest jobs bill in state history.

"Where it goes is an organic process which our committee, the Budget Committee and ultimately the floor will work on," Kelly said.

Kelly said Columbia in particular would benefit from the bond because of the state's large health and education sectors. He said a healthy state economy would benefit the city.

Jones said no specifics have been set for what the bond would cover, but he said areas that should benefit from the bond include construction on college campuses, state-run mental health institutions and transportation infrastructure. He said the current low interest rates make this a good time to issue bonds.

"I view this as a policy issue and one that is not partisan at all," Jones said.

Not all legislators are sold on the issue. Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, voted against a similar proposal when he was in the house in 2009 and has misgivings about borrowing money for an uncertain future. He said doing this puts the entire state at risk.

The last such bond was a $600 million bond passed in 1982, which the state has since paid off. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has already proposed a $950 million bond in the senate. That bill, the text of which Kelly said his committee will start with, would set aside at most $250 million for state buildings, facilities and projects.