Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the bill received final passage Thursday. In fact, amendments were made that sent it back to the Senate, where it passed Friday, sending it to the governor.
Louisiana’s community and technical colleges will get $250 million for 29 new and renovated facilities after the Senate gave final approval this morning, 27-4. The House approved it Thursday. Gov. Bobby Jindal has expressed support for the measure, Senate Bill 204, and is expected to sign it into law.
A parade of House members told their colleagues Thursday that the bill would expand the community and technical colleges to better equip them to train tomorrow’s skilled workers.
“This is one of the most urgent and pressing needs we have in Louisiana,” said state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite.
The vote was 88-11.
Joe May, who heads the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, has said the plan is sell bonds for the first construction projects in 2015. Delgado Community College has six projects costing a total of $86.2 million, including a new cooking school and a center to train nurses.
No one Thursday questioned the need for the construction projects.
But critics, led by state Treasurer John Kennedy, have said the measure will override the state’s debt limit and thus imperil the solid credit rating that Louisiana has achieved over the past 20 years.
The state will pay $22 million a year for 20 years to pay the bonds.
Members of the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s four higher education systems, including Mays’, complained that May carried out an end-run around the normal process where the regents decide which construction projects deserve the highest priority.
One question that has not been fully answered is how the state will find the money to pay for the new instructors and staff who will work in the new facilities. May estimated that the community and technical colleges will need another 220 employees.
The expansion will take place even though the community and technical colleges have cut about 500 employees over the past five years – including 141 at Delgado this year – to cope with budget cuts.