December 20, 2014

House Committee to consider parameters, list of targets for bonding proposal

The state House Committee preparing a more than $1 billion bond proposal will consider the first on-the-record list of projects that might support, next week.

Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia, left) and Representative Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) are the chair and co-chair, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee on Infrastructure and Job Creation.

Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia, left) and Representative Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) are the chair and co-chair, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee on Infrastructure and Job Creation.

In its hearing today it was announced that Representative Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) will offer that list.

“The resolution would essentially be a framework of priority projects across the state to allow the citizens and the voters the opportunity to actually see the economic benefit that will be coming to their community if this moves through the process.”

Some projects that have been discussed are replacement of much of Fulton State Mental Hospital, renovations and repairs at the State Capitol and state parks, numerous improvements or new facilities at colleges and universities and some rural water upgrades.

The authorization for a bond issuance would have to come from voters, and some committee members raised concerns that Kansas City and St. Louis voters won’t support the proposal if it doesn’t include enough projects in those areas. Hough thinks there will be enough for everyone.

“I think we can bridge the gap between any sort of rural and urban issues that one area may think we need a little more or someone else wants a little more, but people need to look at this as a whole … what’s good for the state economic impact overall?”

The Committee will also consider what the price tag on that proposal will be. The resolutions introduced in the House and the Senate both propose a $950 million dollar plan, but lawmakers have speculated that figure could change. The Committee’s Chairman, Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), will offer a proposal to set a target of $1.2 billion dollars, and members will debate whether to raise or lower that amount.

See our earlier stories on a state bonding proposal.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) and Representative Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) will work on an amendment that would add a cost-share component to have colleges and local governments cover part of the cost of their projects, either through cash or in-kind work.

Engler says he knows that idea has gotten the attention of higher education representatives.

“They’re not usually interested in putting up their own money, and in reality they only way we’re going to make this stretch to all the projects that have been proposed is to have some local cost-share match. They have to have some skin in the game.¬†They have to have some incentive locally so that they can get money from the state.”

Schatz says a cost-share would make sure bond proceeds are used responsibly and would make colleges be more careful in selecting projects.

“If there’s a participation mechanism in there I think they will define those projects more on a need basis as opposed to on a wants basis.”

Amendments will also be considered to make energy efficiency a consideration of a bonding-backed project, and to create a “watchdog group” to oversee the use of the bond money.