By Collin Reischman
Jefferson City, MO — House Speaker Tim Jones and Minority caucus vice-chair Chris Kelly joined forces at a press conference today aimed at supporting a bond measure with the potential to be the largest in state history.
Jones, who called a special committee to explore and propose bonding issues for the general assembly to consider, is supporting a measure identical to the one offered by Senator Kurt Schaefer. The measure, if approved by voters, would authorize the Board of Fund Commissioners to issue bonds for up to $950 million.
Jones referred to a 1982 bond measure of $636 million as an example of how large bond issues can increase jobs and provide for better services.
“The ripple effects of that proposal created more than 40,000 jobs,” Jones said at a press conference in the House Lounge. “And the legislature is determined to focus on construction and economic development.”
Kelly — who chairs the special committee on bonding issues — was enthusiastic about the bill but uncertain about how quickly it could be passed.
“A bond issue of this size, this is going to be an organic process,” Kelly said. “It will take a lot of careful work, a lot of negotiating.”
Kelly was encouraged by the allotment for new buildings for colleges and universities around the state. The University of Missouri-Columbia campus, located in Kelly’s district, would no doubt benefit from improvements to it’s engineering facilities, which Kelly mentioned as a major need for the state.
Passage of a bond issue of this size could prove tricky, given the political climate in the state, which is sometimes resistant to new taxes or increased spending and borrowing by government.
“We’ve got a lot of people to convince,” Jones said. “We’ve got lots and lots of people to bring on board, to convince that this is the right course, so it could be a long haul, but my term is two years, so that’s the timeframe I’m working with.”
Not all members of the republican party in the Capitol are in agreement over the issue. Senator Brad Lager is not prepared to support such a large bonding issue in the senate.
“With all of the disdain of debt in our country right now, I cannot imagine a worse time to talk about a debt bill,” Lager said. “And make no mistake, bonding means debt.”
Joining Jones were representatives Rick Stream, budget committee chairman, and Jeanie Riddle, chair of the House rules committee, to reinforce the message that the House leadership was firmly committed to passage. Whether House members can be as easily wrangled, Jones was unready to say.
“We’ll do the work, we’ve begun the discussion now, which is important, just where this process takes us and how much negotiating is required, that remains to be seen,” Jones said.
Collin Reischman can be reached by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @CReischman.