Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OK House GOP Leaders Unveil $500 Million Education Bond Issue

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OK House GOP Leaders Unveil $500 Million Education Bond Issue

Article excerpt

House Republicans revealed their version of a $500 million bond issue for higher education on Monday, the day before the version supported by Democrats is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.

The Promise of Excellence plan was revealed by Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, and Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

Today, Senate Republicans plan to offer a few floor amendments to Senate Bill 745, by Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, D- Lexington. The amendments would make the bill more closely resemble the House Republicans' proposal, said Senate Republican Leader Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

We want to empower Oklahoma's colleges and universities, said Jones. Our plan seeks to permanently fix the problem, to take the politics out of the process and to give Oklahoma's higher education leaders the ability to break new ground.

The Promise of Excellence plan would alter the financing structure for the bond issue to pay off some improvements faster, as well as create a secondary funding source to pay the debt. The plan would also create a permanent endowment fund for regional colleges and universities, and allow the two largest universities to issue their own bond debt.

The Democrats' proposal would have even furniture and computer purchases financed for 30 years, said Hiett, though those purchases would be more economically paid off with short-term debt. The Republican plan would allow for variable financing on individual projects, which could save the state about $100 million in the long run, Hiett said.

The annual debt service on the bond package proposed by Gov. Brad Henry would be about $33 million per year, according to estimates from the state Office of Finance. By paying off certain purchases faster, however, the debt service on the Republicans' proposal could exceed $40 million per year in the first years, confirmed members of the speaker's staff. …

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