Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carnahan Seeks Bond Issue of $250 Million New College Facilities, Prisons Planned

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carnahan Seeks Bond Issue of $250 Million New College Facilities, Prisons Planned

Article excerpt

Gov. Mel Carnahan is asking Missouri voters to pass a $250 million bond issue for new university buildings and prisons for adult and juvenile offenders.

In his State of the State message to the Legislature Wednesday, Carnahan submitted a $12.4 billion budget. Of this record amount, he was able to squeeze out only 3 percent for new programs.

Of the $393 million in new money he proposed, Carnahan suggested spending 59 percent on colleges and universities. "The needs are very great. The pressure was very great," he said.

The bulk of the new money would be the $250 million bond issue. Carnahan proposed spending $130 million on new buildings for colleges and universities and $120 million on prisons for adults and juveniles.

Carnahan saved the bond issue as the last disclosure of his plans for the Legislature, which opened Jan. 5. He included in his address proposals he had outlined earlier - anti-crime measures, welfare revision, health care expansion and limits on campaign contributions.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature generally supported Carnahan, a Democrat. Some Republicans opposed the bond issue and contended that Democrats were late in joining Republicans on demands for welfare changes.

An amusing partisan exchange marked delivery of Carnahan's speech to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House chamber.

As Carnahan described his plan to set up a new auto-exhaust inspection system in the St. Louis area, Republicans applauded when he said, "Some Missourians would prefer simply to thumb our collective noses" at federal demands for tighter air pollution control.

But when Carnahan delivered the next line - "I ask you to join me in taking the more responsible course" - the Democrats applauded.

Carnahan has complained that mandated expenses, from both federal and state sources, are so high they consume almost all revenue increases from economic growth. He said this leaves him with little discretion for new or expanded services.

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, he scraped together $393 million from the bond issue, the state lottery, savings in general revenue and from estimated income from riverboat gambling, which is expected to start in the spring.

Carnahan gave no date when the $250 million bond issue would be submitted to a statewide vote. If authorized by the Legislature, it would require a simple majority for passage.

The last general obligation bond issue submitted to the people was in 1982, when $600 million was approved. Since then, the state has relied on revenue bonds, which do not require a referendum. They are retired with revenue generated by the project constructed with the money, but in many cases this is really "rent" paid annually out of general revenue by the state for use of the buildings. …

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