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Tuition Revenue Bond Bill Refiled - But Will It Go Anywhere?

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State Senator Kel Seliger re-filed a bill that would provide $2.7 billion dollars to public universities for infrastructure improvements.

But he's not confident that Gov. Rick Perry will add the bill to the agenda of the state's newest special session.

Tuition revenue bonds allow public campuses and universities to borrow money to pay for infrastructure projects.  The bonds are repaid with future tuition charges, but the state reimburses universities with money from the general fund. This bill would specifically allocate money for 60 projects at public universities statewide, ranging from emergency repairs to new buildings.  UT Austin would receive between $80 and $95 million, most of which would go toward an Engineering Education and Research Center

The idea failed in the regular session, and Seliger actually brought it up in the summer's first special session.  But it can’t be discussed during the current session unless Governor Perry adds it to the list of topics.

Seliger says lawmakers disagree about how to provide money for university infrastructure. The question, he says, is whether the state should dip into its Rainy Day Fund or use bonds to pay for the projects.

“I would prefer to do it with money from Rainy Day Fund and not carry debt forward, but there’s resistance to doing that, so this is the avenue we have," Seliger said.

The last time the legislature approved Tuition Revenue Bonds was in 2006. 

Seliger says while lawmakers are reluctant to borrow the money, and create further debt, they don’t deny that colleges are going to need these buildings and improvements.  

“If we’re going to have a seat in the classroom for every young person who wants to go to college and we want to go to college, we’re going to need to provide for that,” Seliger said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated UT Austin would receive $310 million through tuition revenue bonds. It would receive between $80-$95 million dollars for its project. 

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