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More than $183 million sought by Rep. Canales for new construction at UTPA, UT-Brownsville

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Legislativemedia@aol.com 

As much as $183.3 million could be generated for critical new construction at the University of Texas-Pan American and UT-Brownsville under legislation being supported by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. 

The funding request for the local universities is featured in two major proposals – each approaching $2.7 billion for new projects at college campuses throughout Texas – filed during the ongoing 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature, which began on May 31. 

However, only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature, and only the governor can decide what legislation may be considered by state lawmakers during a special session. 

The House District 40 state representative wants Gov. Rick Perry to add the university funding legislation to the special session. 

Canales is one of 69 state representatives who have signed a letter to Perry urging the governor to add the tuition revenue bond proposals to the special session. 

“Time ran out on this critical funding initiative at the end of the regular session on May 30, but both the House and the Senate are ready to come to an agreement that would provide the means necessary to improve higher education along the border and statewide,” said Canales. “For UTPA, the Science Building II is a vital component to help prepare students for medical and health care professions. In addition, the Science Building II would help many students become ready to enter the planned UT medical school in the Valley.” 

Senate Bill 11, by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would authorize the issuance of tuition revenue bonds that would provide $83.3 million for a Science Building II at UTPA, and $100 million for a new campus of UT-Brownsville. 

House Bill 10, by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, would authorize the issuance of tuition revenue bonds that would provide $78.4 million for a Science Building II at UTPA, and $100 million for a new campus of UT-Brownsville. 

Tuition revenue bonds (TRBs) are financing mechanisms used by which institutions of higher education to fund capital projects such as institutional construction, renovation projects, equipment, and infrastructure, according to the bill analysis of the measure. 

The Legislature must authorize issuance of TRBs and typically appropriates general revenue to reimburse institutions for the tuition used to pay the debt service.  

Also according to the bill analysis of the proposals: 

The legislation would support a wide range of critical facilities projects at higher education institutions throughout the state that play an important role in enhancing opportunities for a quality education. Renovations, repairs, upkeep, and new facilities are essential to the state’s ability to provide a high quality and competitive education to Texas students. 

Higher education institutions depend on state support for maintenance and expansion to keep pace with the exploding growth in student enrollment and to maintain and enhance the quality of education these students receive.  

A highly skilled and well-educated workforce is vital to remaining economically competitive in a global marketplace. Texas has devoted much to creating and securing the reputation as providing a good environment for business. A world-class workforce is a key part of this equation.  

TRBs are the most cost-effective means of financing construction or improvements of durable capital infrastructure, and construct facilities that can be used while the debt is being paid off. The bonds would be pledged against university revenues and thus would pose little financial risk for the state. Interest rates on recent bond issuances, moreover, have been secured at remarkably low levels.  

Perry initially called the special session to deal with redistricting – the drawing of the physical boundaries of all state representative, state senate, and congressional districts. Since then, Perry has added other major issues, including proposals relating to the funding of transportation infrastructure projects, the regulation of abortion procedures, providers and facilities, and establishing a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender.

 

 

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