WASHINGTON - The Senate Appropriations Committee, as expected, approved legislation yesterday that would continue federal funding for the Superconducting Super Collider project in Texas by providing $640 million in fiscal 1994.
Although no attempts were made to eliminate funding for the controversial collider project, the measure now goes to the Senate floor, where Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., are expected to offer an amendment to try to kill the funding. The $640 million is part of a larger appropriations measure designed to fund energy and water development projects, which had been approved by an appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston, D-La., said he was optimistic that the Senate would beat back any attempt to eliminate funding for the collider. But at the moment the Senate vote appears to be too close to call, according to an informal poll of senators conducted by Dallas area newspapers.
If approved, the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with the House version of the appropriations measure, which does not include any collider funding. Johnston has indicated be is confident Senate conferees will prevail on that question.
Texas has issued $250 million each of lease revenue bonds and general obligation bonds as part of the state's $1 billion contribution to the $11 billion collider project. The federal Department of Energy so far has spent $2 billion on the collider.
The Texas lease bonds are backed by a state pledge to appropriate lease payments for collider facilities each year. State officials have said they intend to honor that pledge regardless of what Congress does.
But bond documents list the loss of federal funding as a clear risk for the lease bondholders because the project cannot be completed with state funding alone.