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Campus Construction Bill May Have New Life

A bill to authorize more than $2 billion in construction projects at college campuses across Texas could get another shot at passage during the special session of the Texas Legislature.

As the Houston Business Journal reported, the bill ran into problems at the end of the regular session, which concluded Monday in Austin. After the Senate passed its version of the bill, the House made changes and the two chambers didn't come to an agreement on what a final deal should look like. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said that when you're considering such a large package of what are called "tuition revenue bonds," or TRB's, it's bad public policy to not have the House and Senate talking to each other about it.

But now Kate McGee at KUT in Austin reports that Senator Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has re-filed the proposal and hopes that Governor Perry will get on board. By law, only the governor has the authority to add topics to the special legislative session. For now, Perry has said the legislature needs to focus solely on redrawing political maps. That's a highly partisan fight, which could mean there's really no bandwidth for anything else in the special session, but time will tell. Earlier this week, Perry did not rule out adding other topics, but he didn't sound enthusiastic about it either.

On this week's Construction Citizen Podcast, AGC America Chief Economist Ken Simonson said the federal government is going to play less and less of a role in public sector construction for now, so states are picking up the slack. "At the state level, revenues have been rising for three or more years. Most states are finally back to their 2007 peak revenues but they're putting a lot more money into Medicaid and income security programs," he said.

"We are starting to see some states put more funds - whether gas tax or some other revenue source - into highway programs so there may be a little pickup in highway construction even if we don't see other public construction rising," Simonson said.

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