On April 8, the Missouri Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 39, which would appropriate $71.1 million for 47 repair and maintenance projects for the University of Missouri System. That money is part of a larger proposal to borrow $600 million for capital projects at universities statewide.
The bill is now in the house where it has yet to be taken up for a vote.
If the bond is approved, the University of Missouri System plans to use the funds for all four of its campuses. UM System Spokesperson John Fougere says the UM system is in serious need of funds for deferred maintenance projects.
“If you look across our University of Missouri System, we currently have a $1.3 billion backlog of outstanding or deferred maintenance projects on our four campuses.” Fougere said.
The bill appropriates $33.7 million to MU. Much of this will be used for renovations to Lafferre Hall to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math facilities – also known as STEM facilities. This is an area where Fougere says some estimates predict Missouri will have 100,000 new jobs by 2018.
“The University of Missouri is the state’s premier public land grant university, and so it’s our obligation to lead the way in preparing these STEM workers for the future economy." Fougere said. "But we will not be able to address some of those critical workforce needs in our state unless we can first solve our critical needs of STEM related facilities on our four campuses.”
Representative Stephen Webber of Columbia says he supports the bond issue. One of his main priorities with the bill is to increase funding for the engineering school, but he says it’s important to keep a balance between renovations and maintenance.
“I really want to fund a pretty significant addition to the engineering school." Webber said. "I think it’s important for job creation to do that. At the same time, the more you add in; the more difficult it becomes to pass, and you don’t want to put in jeopardy the money for repair and maintenance that’s already there.”
Webber says it becomes harder to keep the state’s fiscal house in order when tax cut bills like the one the House passed last Wednesday and bond issues like this one are passed simultaneously.
“At the same time, we’re going around cutting taxes, which takes money away from those very things, which we recognize we need additional funding to." Webber said. "So I think the General Assembly needs to kind of make up its mind as to whether we’re going to invest money in Missouri or whether we’re not going to. And we need to pursue fiscal policies that reflect that."
At this time, there is no word on when or if the house will take a vote on the resolution.