AUSTIN, Texas — Texas universities are anxiously awaiting the governor’s decision on whether a bill that would bring more than $2 billion to Texas university capital projects will go forward in the special session.
Senate Bill 16 stalled after the Senate and House could not agree on a finalized amount for the Tuition Revenue Bonds and amendments to the original bill were not approved. The Senate called for $2.4 million in bonds while the House bill issued $2.7 billion. The Senate voted down the House amount and amendments, and the House did not appoint the necessary conference committee to seek compromise between the two bills. Because of the two legislative bodies were unable to come to a conclusion, both bills died in the regular session.
The decision now lies with Texas Governor Rick Perry on whether to revive the proposal and sign the bond bill into the 30-day special session for further consideration.
Among the many projects that would be funded by bond revenues include a new engineering building at the University of Texas at Austin, the University at Texas Brownsville campus, a biocontainment research facility and music building at Texas A&M University, a $95 million expansion at the University of Houston-Victoria and a pharmacy and biomedical sciences building at the University of Houston.
“It’s a real tragedy,” said Representative Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, in a statement. “That $100 million that was there for UT-Brownsville would have given us the campus that we need. That $100 million would have been an accelerant, which would have ignited campus growth almost immediately.”
Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the original author of the bill, said she has a revised bill ready for the governor the moment he issues the proposal into special session.
“We’re working very hard to achieve consensus,” Zaffirini said.
Bond revenue has not been available to Texas colleges or universities since 2006. Since then, the higher education system has seen significant growth and renovations are long overdue, according to Zaffirini and bill proponents.
“The universities have grown so much and we’re now facing a capacity issue,” Zaffirini said. “Our funding formula awards growth but we cannot grow without construction.”
Both the House and Senate have filed comprehensive tuition revenue bonds for the governor’s consideration. Texas now eagerly waits on whether the long-awaited bill will move forward.
“This is the perfect time,” Zaffiririn said.
As of press time, Perry did not add the bill to the special session call. However, he is allowed to add any legislation to the call during the 30-day special session.