University of Kansas officials are defending their decision to pursue $300 million in bonds for a construction project on the Lawrence campus. Speaking before lawmakers Tuesday, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the project fulfills urgent needs for an updated science facility and more student housing.
“By bundling the various project components and by using the public-private partnership model, we have saved millions of dollars for KU students and families,” says Gray Little.
KU officials say they pursued the partnership, instead of going through the state, as a way to keep the project on track and avoid a possible increase in interest rates.
Some lawmakers say KU circumvented legislative approval and the state may ultimately be on the hook to pay off the bonds. Republican Senator 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,” says O’Donnell.
KU says the way the project is structured it won't use state tax dollars and the state won't face any liability related to the bonds.
Both the House and Senate budget bills include sanctions against KU in response to the project.