A bill that would provide money for OSU-Cascades to expand its campus passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature.

The bill, which would create bonds to pay for the Oregon State University branch campus to expand in Bend, passed the state House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development on Tuesday afternoon.

The bill asks for $69.5 million, the amount OSU-Cascades wants so it can do site reclamation at a former pumice mine nearby and build a second academic building and a student success center. Gov. Kate Brown included $20 million in general obligation bonds in her proposed budget.

The bill will now go to the state House Ways and Means Committee and on to more subcommittees before a final amount is decided, likely in June, according to Sen. Tim Knopp, a sponsor of the bill.

“The vote today is a big step in the future of Central Oregon,” said Knopp, adding the university and its proposed expansion is positive for jobs, education and Central Oregon in general.

Ahead of the vote Tuesday afternoon, Becky Johnson, OSU-Cascades vice president, expected the bill would pass the Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. She and 15 others, including community members and three students, went to Salem in late February to speak on behalf of the bill.

“When it gets to Ways and Means, it’s still going to be a difficult task just because of the current budget situation right now,” Johnson said Tuesday.

The university predicts it will be at capacity in 2020, so it will need a second academic building by 2021. If the $20 million the governor has proposed is the amount the university ends up receiving, it won’t allow the university to meet that 2021 deadline of opening a second academic building, Johnson said.

At that point, the university might have to turn students away, Johnson said.

Knopp said it’s possible the amount the university ends up receiving could be somewhere in between $20 million and $69 million.

“We need to get as close to that $69.5 million as we can because it allows more of the progress to happen,” Knopp said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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