Parson asks committee to endorse bonding projects

A state Senate committee this afternoon could endorse a list of 303 mostly maintenance and repair projects that could be done over the next few years — including more than $300 million worth of work in Mid-Missouri — if lawmakers ultimately approve a state bonding proposal.

The Mid-Missouri part of the package includes at least 45 projects in Jefferson City, Fulton and Linn, and another 19 projects at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus.

Those projects include a new Fulton State Hospital.

Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin and chairman of the Rules, Joint Rules, Regulations and Ethics Committee, said Tuesday evening he didn’t know if the full Senate would vote on the list Thursday or next week, assuming his committee approves it today.

Although the Senate gave its preliminary approval to the bonding bill last week, a final vote still is needed to send the plan to the House — and Richard, who also is the Senate’s floor leader and schedules debate on the various bills, said Tuesday it’s likely the bonding bill and the separate resolution listing the projects would be voted on at the same time.

Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, last week promised that the bonds are aimed at taking care of maintenance projects that long have been deferred and that, with one exception, no new buildings are included in the list.

That exception is the proposed new Fulton hospital — listed last among the 303 projects.

The list also includes $10 million for renovating the current St. Mary’s Health Center complex “for use by Lincoln University” — although that work could not be done until next year, after St. Mary’s moves to its new facility near Missouri 179 in November, then turns the current property over to the state.

SSM Healthcare, which owns the hospital, said in January it has agreed to the concept of that transfer — but no one has announced completion of a final deal.

Lincoln proposes to use about 100,000 square feet of the complex for its nursing program, which currently is housed in Elliff Hall, and for a new culinary arts program.

Linn State Technical College also proposes to use some of the space for its Med-Tech program, which it recently took over from the Nichols Career Center but still teaches in that building.

During Tuesday afternoon’s committee meeting, Parson reminded senators the bonding bill raises the caps on the state’s ability to sell bonds, “$400 million for state buildings, and $200 million of that is for the Fulton mental hospital. There’s also colleges, universities and other state buildings in here.”

The education institutions have a separate, $200 million cap for new bonds.

“Currently, the total right now in both of these is somewhere around $180 million to $185 million,” Parson said.

The resolution listing the projects also contains new language the senators haven’t seen yet: “The funding of these state projects may generate private financial support to provide opportunities for additional construction at higher education institutions.”

Parson said that was added at the request of some colleges, which might be able to raise money to tie in extra work with the state-funded projects.

Otherwise, he said, the specific list “hopefully, will kind of make sure that these projects are what the intention of the House and the Senate is, to make sure that these projects are done — so everybody knows what these will be.”

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