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Lobbyist Money Help  

Key supporters of higher education bond say it could be dead

May 05, 2004
By: Alex Yalen
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 1221, SB 1305

JEFFERSON CITY - Key supporters of a higher education bond said Wednesday that the legislation appears to be headed for a legislative death.

The University of Missouri system would receive roughly $195 million from the bond; MU would get about $90 million of that for construction of a health science center on campus.

Though the bond did receive initial approval from the Senate, another vote is needed before it can be finally sent to the House. Even that, said Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, could be a problem.

But the bond is currently stalled in a financial control committee whose responsibility is to kill bills that the state cannot afford, and that's what worries UM system lobbyists.

"There could be some problems getting that bill out of (the financial oversight) committee," said UM system lobbyist Jim Snider.

There are three main areas of concern regarding the bond. First is the size of the bond, which jumped up to $372.5 million from its initial $190 million. Second is the project list. Some senators aren't convinced that all the projects on the list meet the bond's life science requirement.

Third, Jacob was able to get an increased business tax added to the bond last week to end his filibuster of the bill. That tax could also decrease the bond's popularity.

Jacob, meanwhile, placed much of the blame for the ailing bond on UM system lobbyists. They began the legislative session with a new crew, headed by Steven Knorr. Knorr had worked for the UM system as a federal lobbyist, but this was his first session in Missouri's statehouse.

"The new squad performed like a new squad," Jacob said. "Not like an experienced one. They may have made fatal mistakes."

Jacob accused the lobbyists of having "kicked off the football before the game began," and that they had no clear plan of action.

UM Lobbyists denied that entirely, saying they knew beforehand that the bond could become a political mess.

"I think we knew at the beginning how this bond would evolve," Snider said.

UM system spokesman Joe Moore said that university officials are still holding out hope that the General Assembly will understand the importance of funding the projects.

"This isn't over yet," he said.

The dying bonding proposal also casts doubt on the likelihood that Southwest Missouri State University will get its name changed to Missouri State University.

It was an earlier Jacob filibuster that forced an agreement linking the bonding money to the name change.