Wednesday, February 10, 2016

University projects bill clears House budget committee

State colleges and universities could move forward with their building projects even if those projects aren’t included in a state budget bill under legislation that has passed a House committee.

House Bill 265 would allow capital projects funded with a combination of restricted funds, agency funds, federal funds and private funds to be exempt from the state budget process as long as the projects are authorized by the college or university’s governing board and the Council on Postsecondary Education and presented to a state legislative oversight committee. All costs would be the responsibility of the institution, according to the bill, with no fiscal impact on the state.

HB 265 was approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and sent to the House floor for approval.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said HB 265 would help postsecondary institutions weather budget cuts proposed by the governor.

“With the Governor’s proposal on higher education, (postsecondary institutions) are going to take a 9 percent cut but their population is still growing,” said Clark. “We need to give them the opportunity, if they have restricted funds or agency funds, and they can pay 100 percent for their project, that they can fund it.”

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, said the bill is “really taking all the accountability away from the state.”

Clark said the Council on Postsecondary Education “will not let (the institutions) extend their debt service beyond what the capacity is.”