Blunt says MOHELA sale is legal
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Blunt says MOHELA sale is legal

Date: September 13, 2006
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov.  Matt Blunt met with more than a dozen college and university presidents Wednesday behind closed doors to discuss his proposal to sell the state's college loan program.

"This is probably, with the possible exception of stem-cell research , the most publicly discussed issue that I've dealt with while I've served as governor," Blunt said at a short news conference after the meeting.

The governor did not get specific about the purpose or what happened at the meeting. "I just wanted to update them and reiterate my support for the initiative," Blunt said 

Elson Floyd, UM System president, who attended the meeting, said it was "a very productive meeting just to understand what the broader issues are surrounding MOHELA." Floyd did not confirm if he learned anything new from the meeting. 

Blunt also expressed his frustration with the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority's board of directors delayed vote to pass his initiative. The board was scheduled to vote last Friday but postponed after an attorney in the attorney general's office told board members that they could face possible lawsuits for violation of fiduciary responsibilities and potential conflicts of interest.

"Delays are costly," Blunt said. "Every day we delay adds $70,000 in cost so we are very frustrated by delays."

On Monday Attorney General Jay Nixon suggested that four out the seven board members could have a potential conflict of interest. If all four members were to recuse themselves from voting it would leave the board a member short of the quorum needed to vote.

"I think the attorney general is the only lawyer that believes there are legal impediments to doing this," Blunt said.  "Some of our state's brightest legal minds have looked at this and have looked at this separately and independently and have come to a common conclusion that this works."

The board meets again Sept. 27 to vote on the initiative. Blunt said the board is prepared to fund his plan without it affecting future students' interest rates.

The governor's plan entails using $335 million of the sale to go toward capital improvement projects at state colleges and universities, and $15 million to go to the Missouri Technology Corporation to help commercialize new technologies in Missouri.  

MU would receive $94 million for capital improvement projects under the plan. Of that $94 million $84 million would go toward building a health sciences research center at the university.

"These projects will benefit all of public higher education in our state," Floyd said. "We are grateful that there is a conversation ongoing  regarding a capital outlay for higher education in Missouri."