BEND, Ore. -

Oregon lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that will help fund the purchase of a permanent building for Oregon State University-Cascades graduate programs.

Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, said the 2011-13 capital construction budget provides the bonding authority necessary to cover roughly half of the building?s costs.

?The establishment of a facility owned by OSU-Cascades is an important step in the growth, strength and permanence of this local institution,? Conger said.

?The building as envisioned will create significant synergies between OSU and Bend Research, as well as significant economic development opportunities for Central Oregon," the lawmaker said in a news release. "This project is an investment in the future of Central Oregon ? it will create jobs, help train our local workforce for emerging industries and allow OSU-Cascades to save millions of dollars by buying, rather than leasing, additional space.?

The budget authorizes $2 million in bonding authority, which is backed by state lottery revenues dedicated to economic development. The bond proceeds will be combined with a $1.05 million contribution by OSU-Cascades and an $800,000 contribution from a private donor.

In a news release, Conger said the project, which survived rigorous scrutiny in the legislative process, met with success based on its merits and the sustained support of local leaders and the community.

?We are extremely grateful to Representative Conger for championing this effort, and to Senator Chris Telfer and Representatives Gene Whisnant, Mike McLane, and John Huffman for their co-sponsorship and dedicated support,? said Dr. Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades.

?We especially owe thanks to the many Central Oregonians who supported this bill," Johnson said. "This was the second time in two years that community demonstrated support for OSU?Cascades, and each time it has had significant and positive impact.?

Key lawmakers hailed Thursday vote as a major accomplishment for the campus and region.

"Rep. Conger deserves a lot of credit for the investment made in the OSU-Cascades campus. Working with Rep. Whisnant and Sen. Telfer, Rep. Conger worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and advance the project through the system. I was proud to support a project that will help educate students, create jobs and help stimulate the economy in Central Oregon," said House Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna.

?Rep. Conger worked hard to acquire funding for OSU?Cascades' new facility,? said Rep. Dennis Richardson, co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee. ?I greatly appreciate his leadership on this project. This purchase is the perfect example of the kind of common-sense projects the state should be investing in.?

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News release Thursday from OSU-Cascades:

Legislature approves OSU-Cascades Graduate and Research Center building purchase with bond monies

Oregon State University ? Cascades today announced that with the passage of an omnibus capital appropriations bill the State Legislature has authorized the use of $2 million in lottery bonds for the purchase of a 28,000 square foot building for OSU-Cascades in Bend. Provisions in the omnibus bill (HB5006) were drawn from House Bill 3627, introduced by Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend) and sponsored by Sen. Chris Telfer (R-Bend) and Reps. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) and John Huffman (R-The Dalles).

The building, located at 650 S.W. Columbia St. in Bend, marks a significant step for the 10-year old campus. It will be the first building owned by OSU-Cascades and it provides a visible footprint in a central location in Bend. The building will house OSU-Cascades graduate teaching and counseling programs and its administrative staff. The facility will also serve as an applied research center, with Bend Research leasing a portion of the space specifically for public/private research collaboration, and the Governor?s Regional Solutions Center leasing another 1,000 square feet. AT&T currently leases 6,000 square feet and will continue to do so for at least three years. Moving the graduate programs to the new building will enable OSU-Cascades to improve program delivery to undergraduates by freeing space for growth in Cascades Hall, the facility it currently leases on the Central Oregon Community College campus.

Said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson, ?We are extremely grateful to Representative Conger for championing this effort, and to Senator Chris Telfer and Representatives Gene Whisnant, Mike McLane, and John Huffman for their co-sponsorship and dedicated support. We especially owe thanks to the many Central Oregonians who supported this bill and to the Ways & Means Committee that included these provisions in the capital construction bill. During each of the last two legislative sessions the Central Oregon community has delivered significant support for OSU-Cascades that has created positive and important results for their university.?

OSU-Cascades plans to use private support from a donor along with the lottery bonds for the purchase of the building. The full purchase price is $3.88M. The purchase will allow OSU-Cascades to save $225,000 annually due to a reduction in lease fees on the COCC campus and through lease revenues at the new facility.

OSU-Cascades anticipates offering graduate classes in the new facility beginning in the fall term.

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Earlier story:

On Wednesday, after House Bill 3627 made it out of the Ways and Means Committee, lawmakers told NewsChannel 21 that it's safe to celebrate.

OSU proponents are ecstatic with the news. They say it's not only good for the OSU-Cascades campus but for the Central Oregon region as well.

Johnson has been among those strongly urging the Oregon Legislature to pass a bill to help fund the purchase of a new building for the school's graduate program.

On Wednesday, when the Ways and Means Committee voted to pass the bill, Johnson was watching it live on her computer.