The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will ask lawmakers for a five-year program of $54 million in annual bond sales to reduce a $271 million backlog in the state’s endowed chair program.

If the Legislature approves the request, the Oklahoma Capitol Authority would issue the taxable bonds, with the first tranche in fiscal 2013. The proceeds would be matched with private donations, and the state would match up to 25% of gifts.

The bonds would be supported by annual appropriations by the Legislature.

Since the program began in 1988, the endowed chair program has matched 772 donations at 21 state colleges and universities.

Chancellor Glen Johnson told a legislative panel last week that many of the donors who have not seen their gifts matched may withdraw their pledges if the chairs are not filled soon. He said 2012 is a critical year, as borrowing costs are low.

Most of the unfilled chairs are at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

The change a few years ago to reduce the state match to 1:4 from 1:1 has hurt donations, Johnson said.

The Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority issued $50 million of taxable bonds in 2006 for the program and $132 million in 2010, which included $32 million to refund the 2006 issue.

The request for the matching bonds is part of a 3.7% budget increase being sought by regents, for a total of $980 million in fiscal 2013.

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