St. Louis — State Representative Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, told the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) and presidents of the state's colleges and universities that the value of the proposed Fifth State Building Fund to the economic future of Missouri warrants a special session of the General Assembly. Kelly addressed today's CBHE meeting, held in conjunction with the Governor's Conference on Economic Development, in downtown St. Louis.

Kelly and Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, sponsored a joint resolution during the last legislative session that would have created a general obligation bonding fund for capital improvements on college campuses. The bill was later expanded to include other high priority state building needs, but failed to gain final approval from the legislature.

Kelly told the CBHE and institution leaders that it is an auspicious time to issue new building bonds. "The need is real and meeting it is long overdue," Kelly said. "When is better than now? We're at an ideal time for interest rates. Material and labor costs are down and contractors are hungry. You can't swing a dead cat in this state without hitting a chamber of commerce that would benefit from new construction."

Federal stimulus funds could be used to pay as much as one-third of the interest and payments on the bonds. Payments on the Third State Building Fund will be completed by 2013. Kelly told the CBHE that quick action on the part of the initiative's supporters, the governor and legislature could put the issue on the ballot in April 2010.

The state of Missouri was recently recertified for AAA bond rating. "Given the sluggish economy, the bond market is hungry," Kelly said. "What could be safer than AAA general obligation bonds? Think of all the economic benefits that can be accomplished without a tax increase."

Kelly's remarks hit a responsive chord among the presidents of Missouri colleges and universities. Henry Givens, president of Harris-Stowe State University, said he thinks the building fund will clear its legislative hurdle during the next session and be approved by Missouri voters.

"I think we can do it," Givens said. "It will take the support of our students, our communities, our state leaders and our citizens, but this legislation will be very important for the future of all Missourians."