SALEM — A key committee in the Legislature approved $39 million in bonds for the OSU-Cascades campus.

The Joint Ways & Means Committee unanimously approved the money for the Bend campus, which means the campus will be able to build the Cascades Academic Building 2.

The funding must be ratified by the full House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns, most likely Saturday.

Because House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, sit on the committee and voted in favor of the funding, it’s unlikely the vote will be reversed by either chamber.

Erik Kancler, a lobbyist for Oregon State University-Cascades, said campus officials were gratified by the action.

“We are thrilled to see the full amount reflected in the bill,” Kancler said. “We’ll be excited to watch it through the rest of the way.”

The OSU-Cascades funding was part of an $88 million request made by Gov. Kate Brown as supplemental funding for higher education.

The subcommittee approved all of the items requested, although it cut in half a request by the University of Oregon for its Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, from the $40 million requested to $20 million.

Eastern Oregon University received $9 million for a new field house.

The committee approved $2.8 million to replace a boiler at Southern Oregon University.

The bill came with a “budget note” directing the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to report to the Legislature by May 2018 on statewide criteria for evaluating and prioritizing public university capital requests.

“We need to be comparing campuses and not just funding every project every campus wants,” Kotek said. “I think we will be having a very interesting conversation next year with the information from this commission.”

In another action Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved legislation authored by Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, to ensure that outside work by public university and college staff is not included in an employee’s salary when determining pension benefits. The bill, which passed the House unanimously, goes to the governor.

The bill was inspired by the case of Mike Bellotti, the former University of Oregon football coach and athletic director, who receives $45,000 per month in retirement benefits.

Bellotti’s pension is based on his final salary of $1.3 million a year. But $1 million of that came from outside sources such as Nike and television deals that the university “approved” and were added to his $299,000 salary for determining his state-paid benefits. Though it closes the loophole, the legislation is not retroactive and will not affect Bellotti’s pension.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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