Texas Campuses Advocate for $3.1 Billion Construction Bond

AUSTIN, Texas — In early April, the Texas House of Representatives approved the authorization of a $3.1 billion bond package in a 131 to 13 vote that would support construction on college campuses.

Only a few members of the House opposed House Bill 100 (HB 100), carried by Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton), mainly because they didn’t want the state to take on debt for this purpose, reported The Texas Tribune. However, leaders in higher education and business groups believe there is an urgent need for construction funding in order to expand classroom space and to maintain an educated and balanced workforce. University officials also say the bonds are important in helping smaller regional campuses that don’t have much donor support.

HB 100 would help finance 64 projects across the state using tuition revenue bonds, through which tuition and fees would float the debt. The state hasn’t passed any similar bills in a decade.

The Senate Higher Education Committee also approved Senate Bill 150, a related bill that would authorize more than $3 billion worth of bonds.

Two years ago, similar bills were unsuccessful in both the House and Senate, forcing several schools to delay key projects. For instance, Texas State University had to stop progress on a nursing facility on its Round Rock campus and an engineering building at the San Marcos campus, which kept both departments from increasing enrollment.

Despite the majority vote, some groups still do not support the bond package. For example, the advocacy group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility is against it, asking that money for campus construction projects come from legislative appropriations rather than bonds.

The tentatively approved legislation would allow the University of Texas System to issue $927.6 million worth of bonds, reported the Texas Tribune. 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.