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KU Defends Construction Bond Decision Before Kansas Lawmakers

jphilipg, flickr Creative Commons

An earlier version of this story ran Feb. 9 during All Things Considered.

Officials from the University of Kansas are defending their decision to seek bonds outside of the state for a construction project. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, KU officials appeared before both Senate and House committees yesterday.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told legislators that the new housing and science facilities are badly needed. She says they sought out the public-private partnership as a way to complete the project without Kansas tax dollars.

“The fact that the university was able to create a project of this size and scope –at the same time saving tens of millions of dollars and not having to request funds from the state- is a tremendous accomplishment. We are proud of this project,” Gray-Little says.

Gray-Little says the project is funded with revenue generated from the facilities, efficiencies and enrollment growth.

Lawmakers have raised concerns that KU dodged legislative approval. They’ve said the state could be on the hook to pay for the bonds. Republican Sen. Michael O’Donnell blasted KU's decision to go outside the state to seek help in selling the bonds.

“Really, I find that to be the most egregious part of this whole situation, that you went to Wisconsin to do this,” O’Donnell says.

Both the House and Senate budget bills include sanctions against KU in response to the project.

KU says the project is structured so that the state doesn’t have liability.