CHICAGO - Missouri lawmakers are advancing legislation to make clear legislative and voter authority over any borrowing, a move prompted by questions over whether Gov. Jay Nixon's bonding proposal for a new St. Louis Rams professional football stadium requires a vote.
State Office of Administration leaders surprised lawmakers when they previously testified that they believed the state could extend a repayment stream that goes to pay down bonds issued for the Rams' current stadium without a vote under a state law governing sports and convention center contracts.
The Nixon administration at the time did not say it intended to move forward without a vote.
In response, lawmakers inserted language in an unrelated bonding proposal in Senate Bill 330 that specifies the executive branch lacks authority to extend existing bonds or issue bonds, including debt for the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, without legislative or voter approval.
The Senate approved the bill late last week and it's now before the House. The bill also would allow the Board of Public Buildings to issue up to $325 million of debt under the new label of "renovation bonds" for the renovation and repair of state-owned buildings under a bond authorization previously approved for other projects.
Several other bills are pending before the Legislature that include similar language on legislative authority over bonds. The authority issued the original bonds for the Edward Jones Dome by the authority.
The task force appointed by Nixon to work on the stadium is promoting an open-air, nearly $1 billion stadium that relies on between $300 million and $350 million of borrowing that would be repaid by continuing the current revenue stream repaying the Dome bonds.
The state, St. Louis, and St. Louis County together pay $20 million annually to cover debt service on remaining dome bonds issued by the authority and $4 million for maintenance on the dome bonds. The city and county tap hotel and motel taxes to cover their share.
State and local officials are working to keep the team amid a threatened move to southern California by owner Stan Kroenke.
The Board of Public Buildings bonds would be repaid with revenue in the facilities maintenance reserve fund with project approval required by the Committee on Legislative Research.
The state earlier this month tapped a piece of its bonding authority for various state and higher education projects in a $38 million sale of new-money special obligation bonds to help finance renovations of Lafferre Hall at the University of Missouri-Columbia's College of Engineering.
The deal also included $21 million of refunding bonds.
Ahead of the sale, all three rating agencies affirmed the state's triple-A general obligation credit marks and the one-notch-lower ratings on special obligation credit that are subject to appropriation.