BRADENTON, Fla. - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is proposing a new bond program for its community colleges modeled after a similar program for universities approved by the Legislature last year.

Beshear's budget includes the creation of the "BuildSmart Investment for Kentucky Competitiveness," which would provide $145.5 million of agency bonds to finance campus improvements at the state's Community and Technical College System using designated revenues.

The bond financing would fund up to 75% of 16 projects. The remaining cost would come from local communities and other public or private sources.

The total program would finance $194 million in construction across the state.

"Our community and technical college system is one of our most important tools in building a stronger, more agile and adaptable workforce," Beshear said. "Yet, as our campuses have swelled with students, we haven't been able to keep up with the system's broad infrastructure needs."

The state's general fund support for all higher education institutions has been cut 15% over the last three biennial budgets, with another 2.5% cut proposed in the fiscal 2015 budget.

In the past three years, there has been no funding for new capital projects at all of the 73 campuses in the community and technical college system. The system serves more than 92,000 students.

"Through BuildSmart, agency bonds will letÂ…campuses upgrade facilities to accommodate student needs with no impact to the general fund," Beshear said. "At a time when we are pushing our students to pursue higher education, it's imperative that they have adequate classrooms and facilities."

Last year, Beshear has signed House Bill 7 into law allowing the state's public universities to issue $363.3 million of agency bonds secured by specific fees to fulfill pent-up capital needs. University presidents proposed the bond program to accelerate long-delayed projects.

State law requires the General Assembly to authorize all bonds, and to appropriate bond funds to construct capital projects.

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