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Texas Senate committee advances tuition revenue bonds bill for higher ed construction projects

Students, some wearing face masks, walk through campus at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
According to the bill’s analysis, most of the money would go toward the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas System. Both systems’ projects total at least $300 million each.

A group of Texas Senators advanced a bill Thursday that would provide $2 billion in funding for higher education construction projects.

Senate Bill 52 would allow Texas’ public universities to pay for infrastructure projects through tuition revenue bonds, a process that hasn’t been done by the state Legislature since 2015.

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe, is the bill’s sponsor. He also chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, which unanimously passed the legislation 9-0.

“Texas higher education systems, institutions, and other interested parties have expressed the need for universities to be provided with the means to undertake these projects on their campuses,” said Creighton, during Thursday’s hearing. “And, the tuition revenue bonds, TRBs, they’ve historically been a favorable method used by the Texas Legislature to fund infrastructure projects on our higher education campuses.”

According to the bill’s analysis, most of the money would go toward the Texas A&M University System as well as the University of Texas System. Both systems’ projects total at least $300 million each.

Texas Southern University is hoping to use the funds for $154.2 million worth of maintenance, renovation and construction projects, which state Senator Borris Miles said is long overdue.

“The water pipes at TSU can’t maintain pressure integrity, which can cause pipes to blow at any time,” the Houston Democrat said. “Even newer buildings, such as the Science Center, suffered dilapidation, damage during Winter Storm Uri, and an estimated 1,000 gallons of water came through the roof and flooded our hallways. Texas Southern is in need.”

Thursday’s hearing came a day after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked the Gov. Greg Abbott in a letter to add tuition revenue bonds to the agenda of this third special legislative session, which is set to end by Tuesday.

So far, Abbott has yet to add the issue to the special session.