University bonding bill approved by General Assembly; Gov. Beshear will sign it Thursday

02/20/2013 07:02 PM

Both chambers of the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly on Wednesday gave their final seals of approval to the bill that allows six public universities to sell bonds to finance on-campus projects.

It became first bill to be sent to the governor this year. And Gov. Steve Beshear announced he would sign it at a public ceremony at 1:45 p.m. Thursday at the Capitol.

The state Senate made one minor adjustment to House Bill 7 by adding a stipulation that the universities can’t raise tuition to pay off any of the bonded debt. It’s a standard phrase usually included in state budget bills that give permission for the public universities to sell bonds for construction projects.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 36 – 1 with Eli Capilouto, the president of the University of Kentucky, looking on from the gallery. After sending the bill back to the House, the lower chamber gave its final approval with a 95-0 vote.

Capilouto was a major force in lining up support for the bill. The measure gives permission for UK to sell bonds to finance $110 million in upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium, a new $100 million UK Science building and $40 million in renovations to the Gatton College of Business building, as well as a student center at the University of Louisville and dorm renovations at Murray State University.

The universities will use dedicated revenue to pay those bonds. UK, for instance, will use athletics department revenue to pay for the stadium upgrades and two-thirds of the science building’s cost.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, was the lone ‘no’ vote in the Senate and he told reporters he didn’t think now was the time for universities to start big projects.

“Building in this environment – when tuition is raising every year is inappropriate,” he said.

Discussion of the bill in the Senate did take a brief diversion into the controversial topic of Kentucky’s prevailing wage law. Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, has called for the repeal of prevailing wage, which sets a pay rate for construction workers on public buildings based on regional averages for those trades. McDaniel said it’s costing the state extra money.

- With additional reporting by Ryan Alessi


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