A $700 million bond issue has passed the House, after moving through the amendment process without an amendment offered or a question asked.
Sponsor Chris Kelly, a Democratic state representative from Columbia, came to the House floor, ready to explain his measure.
“I would be glad to entertain any questions on HJR 32 ,” Kelly told colleagues. “I have bond forecasts. I’ll be glad to talk about all of that, but I will also yield to questions.”
He didn’t have to yield. No one in the House made a motion to amend the resolution. No one asked Kelly any questions. His less-than-two-minute introduction became the only talk on the House floor during the amendment process.
“I was shocked,” Kelly told reporters afterward about the lack of debate on the issue, “I wasn’t just surprised.”
Kelly said he came fully prepared for lengthy debate.
“I had all my data in, information, facts,” Kelly said. “I didn’t need any of it.”
Kelly had to defend his proposal a bit more on final approval Thursday morning. A few representatives questioned whether the state should borrow money during a recession. Kelly responded that interest rates are at historic lows and some financial managers believe the state can get a rate of 4% on the bonds.
After delivering a short introduction and receiving no questions earlier in the week, Kelly answered questions about the proposal for about 25 minutes before the House voted 131-to-28 to pass it. It now moves to the Senate for its consideration. If the legislature approves the resolution, it goes to a vote of the people.
Missouri is set to pay off the $600 million bond package approved in the 80s. Kelly said he settled on the $700 million figure, because the state can handle that amount without a tax increase. Kelly proposes to takes advantage of the $39 to 46 million allocated each year to pay off the current bond package. He envisions using that same funding stream to pay off the new bond package in 20 years, though the resolution gives the state 25 years to pay them off.
The bonds would pay for the top capital improvement priority on all four-year and two-year state college campuses. Kelly says it will make up for the failure of the Lewis and Clark Initiative to pay for college capital improvements. The sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority has fallen far short of projections, causing many of the capital projects in the initiative to be delayed or scrapped.
The current bond package set to be paid off this year was approved by the legislature in 1982, during the second term of then-Gov. Bond. Voters approved the package. The state issued the bonds in 1983 and 1984.
Kelly explains that the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package approved by Congress contains a provision to help states pay off bonds. Kelly drafted his resolution prior to passage of the stimulus package. He says he only needs to make a bit of adjustment for the bonds to qualify for the federal subsidy.