The Arizona Desert Lamp

Ding-dong! The bill is dead

Posted in Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 23 December 2008

Which old bill? The billion-dollar corporate handout campus construction plan sold to the public as an “economic stimulus package” for the state of Arizona. Rep Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Capital Review, has been holding up the bill since October. Now, according to the Arizona Daily Star, it looks like the bill is really most sincerely dead:

A lawmaker-approved plan to spend $1 billion on building projects at the state’s three universities and stimulate the construction industry is likely dead after a legislative committee set to review the package canceled its meeting.

The cancellation of the Friday meeting means the projects — which included $470 million to expand the University of Arizona’s medical school in downtown Phoenix — probably won’t be reviewed until the Legislature convenes next year, dimming the prospects of the package ever being implemented.

Given the state’s growing deficit, lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Capital Review have been blocking the bond-funded projects, saying that the spending needs to be trimmed or cut entirely as they look for ways to make up for a shortfall that could reach $2 billion.

The decision by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, to stall the projects — originally passed by lawmakers during the summer — has met with criticism from Gov. Janet Napolitano and leaders of the state’s three universities, who say Pearce is ignoring the will of the full Legislature.

Although members of the committee approved $64.6 million to fund critical safety repairs at the three universities at a November meeting, they’ve held off reviewing the rest of the package, which includes $170 million to be spent at the UA’s main campus.

As I’ve said before, the part of this package earmarked for construction of two new residence halls ought to be approved—that spending would be financed by a bond now, and paid off with proceeds from student rent, which is far less of an affront to fiscal responsibility. UA is hurting for student space (visit any study lounge during late August and you’ll find a few freshman holed up in temporary quarters) so it’s too bad that sorely needed dorm capacity will be held up. But as for the rest of this bill: cue the Lollipop Guild.


2 Responses

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  1. ryan johnson said, on 23 December 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Hey Connor started reading y’alls blog recently – good stuff.

    Given what the UA charges for rent, I doubt the revenue would cover the bond interest by itself, even for a very economical construction style. But certainly the state covering the shortfall is a better use of funds than some other projects.

    However, getting private financing is another option. ASU has done some of this, and there are investors that would love to get involved. The state would still have to subsidize it and the investors would want things like guaranteed rents. But given the need, it’s a project worth pursuing.

    On a personal level I benefit from these dorms not coming on the market. More demand and no new supply means more support for rents around campus. But the UA needs more dorm rooms…..

    Later in life I’d love to get involved in some PPP dorm rooms.

    (ps: do you guys have a feature so that I will get notified of any follow-up comments?)

  2. […] This hold lasted until the end of the 2008 legislative session, and the bill appeared to be dead once and for all. Yet through its journalistic voodoo magick, the Associated Press has brought the […]

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