Senate OKs bonding plan

Vote on specific projects expected Monday

Missouri senators on Thursday sent the House a bill that raises the caps by $600 million on the amount of revenue bonds the state can sell.

Senators will be asked Monday to approve a specific list of more than 300 projects that would be paid for with money raised by selling those bonds — a list that includes a new, $200 million Fulton State Hospital; $10 million in renovations for the current St. Mary’s Health Center complex, so Lincoln University’s Nursing program can move into it after St. Mary’s moves to its new facility late this year; and repairs and renovations at college and university campuses throughout the state, including LU, Linn State Technical College and the University of Missouri system.

“I think getting the bonding out of the Senate was a major step,” sponsor Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, told reporters after the 25-6 vote. “I think it’s a good example of colleagues working with each other, trying to get something that, I believe, is very important for the state of Missouri.

“I think it’s something that we’ve somewhat neglected over the years.”

Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, was one of the half-dozen senators voting against the plan.

He agreed with Parson that the projects to be done had not been addressed over the years.

“I was disappointed to learn that, ever since we (Republicans) have taken over the majority, that we have failed to set aside enough money in deferred maintenance,” Lamping told the Senate before the vote, “so that now we need to go and raise our debt ceiling 45 percent to go into debt, to borrow to spend to fix those things that we have not set aside enough money over the course of time. …

“It’s no secret that my preferred course of action here would be that we don’t bond — that we just now make up for the fact that we haven’t done what we should have done, and just decide to reallocate money from what we have, to pay for what we need to do.”

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, also urged the Senate to reject the plan.

“I believe that, in this situation, all we’re doing is moving these projects ahead of everything else in our budget,” Kraus explained. “And, if we really think they’re the important thing to do, let’s put them in our budget and get them done.”

The bonding plan adds $200 million for the Fulton hospital project, so the state can replace out-of-date facilities with a modern design that can help the state hold the most seriously mentally ill Missourians while also improving safety for the state employees that help care for the patients.

Parson said the bill raises the cap on bonds for public school and university buildings, including community college facilities, by $200 million.

“It also increases another $200 million for state properties and state buildings,” he said. “Many projects are in that.”

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