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Lobbyist Money Help  

UM System could gain $200 million under naming agreement

January 28, 2004
By: Alex Yalen
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The University of Missouri System could gain $200 million under an agreement between two top state senators.

The agreement, still being discussed, was brokered after a roughly six-hour filibuster by Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.

It would allow Southwest Missouri State to change its name to Missouri State University, and it would give the University of Missouri extra money to help fund construction of the performing arts center, convention center, and hotel on the MU campus, among other things.

Kinder and Jacob are considered to be the leading Republican and Democratic candidates for the Lieutenant Governorship.

The bond proposal initially raised the intense ire of many senators, who voiced serious concerns over both the size of the bond and how it was being issued.

"If we're really going to feel like Santa Claus in the Senate today, let's just give everything to everyone," said Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, reflecting on the size of the bond issue.

Specifically, the senators questioned the legality and propriety of adding an amendment -- without a hearing -- that effectively appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars.

"I don't like the name change, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it," said Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County. "But if we start getting into capital renovations, that's ridiculous and it may be unconstitutional."

Dissension over the bond proposal reached across party lines.

"The final issue is this is $200 million that, in a very short amount of time, we're going to say, 'OK, let's go and do this thing," said Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles County. "It's irresponsible. There are other ways to compromise."

Earlier in the day, Jacob had insisted that he would not allow the SMSU name change to occur, likening it to "identity theft." He spent several hours arguing that Missouri State University was a name that applied only to the UM System, insisting he would never back down.

Later in the afternoon, however, he appeared to change course, open to the swap of money for naming rights.

"I don't like giving up the name," he said during the debate. "But sometimes good ideas emerge in peculiar circumstances."

Jacob and other opponents of the naming bill said they feared that a name change would reduce funding for the UM System overall. But supporters say that the change is primarily a marketing tool for the school and would have little effect on the UM System.

"When you are able to use the name to reflect what the school is doing, that will help you market it," said Norma Champion, R-Greene County, one of the bill's proponents. "I believe it will strengthen higher education throughout the state."

Jacob's filibuster ended in the early evening when Kinder, the name-change bill's sponsor, put the bill aside for later debate.

"This has been an education for all of us," he said. "We're trying to do what we think needs to be done. We are making good faith efforts to work something out."