Monday, May 6, 2013

HJR 14 – The Fifth State Building Fund

We in the Missouri House strive to be good stewards of the public interest and the people’s money. When times got tough several years ago, we tightened our belts and made difficult and often painful cuts. Today, an opportunity has arisen to invest in Missouri’s future through rebuilding the infrastructure of our state facilities.

The House recently perfected House Joint Resolution (HJR) 14, which will create the Fifth State Building Fund. This is the hour for such a resolution. Last October, we made our final payment on the 30-year, $600 million Third State Building Bond. That bond was approved by the people of Missouri in 1982, when interest rates were between eight and nine percent.

Today, the need for a public works program is great. So is the opportunity for implementing this program at the lowest possible rates. Interest rates are historically low. At 3.3%, they are one-third of what they were in 1982. In fact, these are the best rates this country has seen since the mid-1800s.

We have the chance to make an exceptional deal. We have the AAA credit rating to obtain the bond with the low interest rates. We have workers across the state ready to immediately begin work on massive construction projects. We strive to run this state like a business, and any business would say this is a no-brainer.

Upon voter approval, HJR 14 would allow Missouri to raise up to $1.2 billion to be used for various construction, renovation, and rebuilding projects at state facilities. Up to $600 million would be invested in our higher education facilities. It would allow community colleges and universities to acquire new land on which to build facilities, such as medical training clinics and energy research centers, areas where we anticipate growth in the coming years.

At least $40 million will go toward preserving and maintaining our 85 state parks. New funds will help the parks system build new public facilities, upgraded campgrounds, and boardwalks, which will in turn bring about new and increased tourism. Up to $100 million will be reserved for improvements to the Missouri State Capitol. This building is not only the workplace of the Missouri Legislature—it is a state treasure, a museum of magnificent art and architecture, and an inspiration to the thousands of schoolchildren who come here each year.

The building bond will also provide up to $20 million for renovating the public elementary and secondary schools our children attend every day. Two-hundred million dollars will be set aside for a new mental health facility in Callaway County. The current Fulton State Hospital facility is dilapidated, an unsafe place to work, and an impossible place to heal. HJR 14 would finally provide the funds for not just improvements, but a whole new building at which to treat the criminally mentally ill individuals in our state.

The remaining portion of the $1.2 billion bond will go toward various building and infrastructure projects, from other state buildings to rural water districts. To give an idea of the many projects that can be aided by a new building fund, we look at the 1982 bond. It provided money for soil and water conservation projects, group homes in Jackson County, storm water control grants, and the construction of the Western Missouri Correction Center, along with the myriad improvements and expansion to higher education facilities.

This is the largest jobs-creation bill of this session, even of the decade. It will move to the Senate along with the 2014 budget. If the Senate takes this opportunity, the people of Missouri will be able to make the final decision through their votes on the long-term growth for our state.

The Great Seal of the State of Missouri depicts a crescent moon. When the seal was designed in 1822, the crescent moon symbolized the hope that our state – small at the time, but with a wealth of natural resources – would continue to grow. Today we have an opportunity to fulfill our forebears’ hopes. The Fifth State Building Fund will create jobs, invest in education and health, and move to preserve and grow Missouri.

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