DALLAS -- The Texas National Research Laboratory Commission expects to sell its first revenue bond issue late this year in the state's second installment of funding for the Superconducting Super Collider project.
The agency has already sold a general obligation issue -- $250 million rated double-A -- using one-fourth of its $1 million authorization.
Plans for the new $250 million issue come in the wake of the resignation Friday of the commission's chairman, J. Fred Bucy, who told reporters he was stepping down because of doubts the $8.25 billion atom smasher will ever be built.
Mr. Bucy said he had concerns over whether the commission could secure the needed funds from Congress and foreign investors, including the Japanese.
The project has come under increasing attack in the U.S. House of Representatives, where critics have cut $100 million from federal funding in fiscal 1992. The Senate will decide later this month how much, if any, will be restored to the $534 million in funding originally sought by the Bush administration.
"It's not beyond salvation, but it's getting close," Mr. Bucy told reporters.
Others say the outlook is not as gloomy.
"Some of us don't share that skepticism," said Robert Carpenter, director of fiscal affairs for the commission.
Asked if the agency might seek to use additional state-backed bonds if other funding sources come up short, he responded, "That has not been contemplated at the present."
Texas officials have said their $1 billion bond-financed role would be all of their financial commitment to the super collider project. So far, that has not changed.
"I think the $1 billion is the extent to which the state is committed now," said Wardleen Belvin, special assistant to Lieut. Gov. Bob Bullock.
In fact, some in Congress have argued that Texas should put more money into the project amid reports the total cost of the super collider could rise to $11 billion, or more.
Texas created the commission to finance the state's $1 billion share of the project, which is a 54-mile atom smasher being built underground at Waxahachie, south of Dallas. Despite reported difficulties obtaining foreign investment commitments and questions about future funding in Congress, few expect the project to be mothballed.
Even if it is, holders of $250 million of Texas-backed GO bonds would continue to receive principal and interest payments on the 30-year debt issued in May 1990. Those bonds have an initial 10-year call.
Tom Pollard, executive director of the Texas Bond Review Board, said debt service payments on the super collider bonds now total about $25 million annually, which is paid by state appropriation.
Texans authorized $500 million of general obligation bonds and $500 million of revenue bonds for the project to be sold by Aug. 31, 1999. Ultimately, debt service on all those bonds will come from state revenues.
At its Aug. 21 meeting, the commission is expected to discuss which brokerages will underwrite the upcoming revenue bond sale and whether it will be sold negotiated or competitive.
While the proposed sale has not been scheduled, the commission is working to structure the revenue bonds with its financial advisers, Lazard Freres & Co. in New York and Walton, Johnson & Co. in Dallas.
Project officials expect the next issue to be sold as lease revenue bonds, though the final structure is still being developed. However, debt service on the revenue bonds also will come from state appropriations.
"The specifics of the structure is still being discussed," said Richard L. Kornblith, a lawyer at Johnson & Gibbs in Dallas, the co-bond counsel to the commission. "It is clearly going to be paid out of appropriation money from the state."