What the fast-tracked $3B campus construction bill could mean for UT Austin, Texas State

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Senate on Friday passed a $3 billion bill that would pour millions of dollars into construction projects at public university campuses across the state, including the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University.

SB52 sailed through the upper chamber by a vote of 30-1 just hours after Gov. Greg Abbott added “higher education improvements” to his list of agenda items for the third special legislative session, set to end next Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a letter to Abbott Wednesday, asking him to prioritize the issuing of debt via tuition revenue bonds to pay for the projects.

Despite the name, tuition revenue bonds, or TRBs, are often paid back through state appropriations. Senators added an amendment to refer to them as “capital construction assistance projects” moving forward.

SB52, which now heads to the House of Representatives, would cover 47 projects, including an $80 million renovation for UT’s J.J. Pickle Research Campus and $141 million for a new STEM classroom building at Texas State.

Schools had to submit their requests to the state for consideration, and many did not make the cut, according to the bill’s author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe.

“This is a very lean list,” Creighton said before Friday’s vote. “The projects that we are considering, and the projects that we have on the list have been vetted very carefully.”

Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry expressed his support for the bill but questioned whether bonds were the way to go, given the state’s cash-on-hand and rising inflation rates.

“This isn’t the right way to do things,” Perry said. “TRBs are not the right vehicle to do business in the State of Texas when you have cash.”

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