DALLAS — Texas colleges and universities are seeking $3.6 billion of bond authority in the current session of the state Legislature, which began Tuesday.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, submitted Senate Bill 26, providing revenue bond authority for the state’s major college systems.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will rank the proposed campus projects by priority.
Faced with falling revenues and deep cuts to education funding requests, the 2011 session of the Legislature did not approve bonds for the universities. Since then, revenues have rebounded, and Zaffirini is optimistic that her funding measure will advance.
Legislators approved $1.9 billion of tuition revenue bonds for the universities in 2006, the last time the authority was granted. Higher education institutions are required to submit their capital expenditure plans to the coordinating board in the form of the master plan. The board then summarizes the plans and submits them to the Texas Bond Review Board.
Through 2017, the state’s colleges and universities are planning 830 capital expenditure projects worth a total of $17.4 billion. That includes $11.5 billion of new construction projects, according to the higher education board.
The University of Texas at Austin is requesting $95 million of tuition revenue bonds to help finance a $310 million replacement of the Engineering-Science Building that is 50 years old and designed for lectures rather than projects.
The university is also requesting $58.3 million of bonds for a new Graduate School of Business building.
UT’s Arlington campus is requesting $64.3 million of bonds to remodel a life science building. UT Arlington is seeking Tier 1 status among universities, a ranking that reflects its research capability.
In the Texas A&M System, the Kingsville campus is seeking $42 million of bond authority to remodel its music building.
The Texas State University System, headquartered in Austin, is requesting $83 million for a new engineering and science building in San Marcos and $48.8 million for a new health professions building in Round Rock. The Round Rock campus north of Austin has become a hub for research and training, including a Texas A&M medical school.
The higher education funding requests are competing with other state agencies and public education seeking restoration of funds lost to the recession.
The two-year Texas budget is the only bill lawmakers are required to pass and will be the focal point of the session as leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature tread a cautious path through big changes in public health care.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday estimated that the state has $101.4 billion in available spending for the next two-year budget cycle.