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Key Senator Backs UT System Plan To Rethink New HQ

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A decision by the University of Texas System to rethink building a new $102 million headquarters in downtown Austin is backed by a key lawmaker who characterized it as thoughtful given that the expensive project would not directly contribute to education.

Republican Sen. Kel Seliger, the new chairman of the influential state Senate Higher Education Committee, told the Austin American-Statesman  that system leaders were "businesslike and insightful" in expressing second thoughts this week about the proposal.

"I had expressed concerns -- just that it was a lot of money to house a large group of people that are not directly contributing to the education of young people, understanding of course that it is a very large and complex system as well and the system has a lot of responsibilities," Seliger said.

Seliger told the newspaper he had been in touch with UT System officials about the project but did not press them to put it on the back burner.

The UT System oversees 15 academic and health campuses, including the flagship campus in Austin. System employees currently work out of a five-building complex downtown.

System officials this week decided to reconsider plans to consolidate into a new 15-story building. The system had projected the move to save up to $5 million annually in operation costs.

Legislative approval isn't required for the system to build a new headquarters. Lawmakers, however, must sign off on a plan approved this month for the system to spend $100 million to accelerate construction of a new medical school in South Texas.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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