The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved $60 million in capital spending for the state’s technical colleges over the next five years — despite the state’s tight purse-strings.
Chairman Jim Fannin insisted that investing in the technical college system will grow the economy and the tax base.
"In talking to economic development, with all the new prospects we're expected to come here in the next few years, 70 to 80 percent those jobs will not require a four year degree," Fannin said, "but will require some formal training, more specifically, in our technical and community colleges."
Representatives ignored criticism on two fronts with their 19 to 3 vote.
Treasurer John Kennedy testified that the project would push the state over its debt ceiling.
Board of Regents President Bubba Rasberry testified the project evades constitutional channels for campus improvement projects: approval by the regents for prioritization in the Capital Outlay budget.
“When you’re flying in formation, the strength is everyone staying together to accomplish the mission," Rasberry said, "which I would say is the greater good for higher education in Louisiana with available funding.”
Adley pointed out that the technical colleges are often the last priority for funding. Fannin pressed the Commissioner of Higher Education, Jim Purcell, to recount the last time he approved capital improvements for technical colleges. After an exchange, Purcell said he wasn't prepared to speak to that.
Representative John Schroder, who voted against the bill with other Fiscal Hawks, said the proposal may signal a need to restructure the four-board system that currently governs higher education.
The measure has already been approved by the Senate, and will next face the House floor.