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Lobbyist Money Help  

Serious glitches threaten MOHELA plan

May 04, 2006
By: Meghan Maskery
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The governor's plans to use the profits expected from a college loan sale ran into a couple of serious glitches just one day before the state's deadline for approving a final spending plan.

On Thursday night, a conference committee made up of both House and Senate members adopted language that several years from now could cut into the budgets of four-year public universities.

The Speaker Pro Tem of the House, Carl Bearden said legislators must pass this proposal before the House will consider voting on a spending plan for the profits expected from the college loan sale.

Just a few hours before the spending plan was tied to Bearden's bill, another proposal to authorize the college loan sale was temporarily derailed in the House after an amendment was offered to impose an anti-stem cell research and anti-abortion provision.

Under Bearden's bill, which is a compromise between the House and the Senate, the state must provide $68 million annually to fund scholarship programs by 2012. Currently, the state provides $37.2 million.

If the $68 million level has not been reached by then, the state would take up to one percent of the operating budgets of all public four-year universities to get the money.

If the state does not put $120 million toward the scholarships by 2017, up to two percent of the operating appropriations to all public institutions, including community colleges, would be diverted to fund scholarships.

Colleges and universities that limit annual tuition increases at or below inflation will not be subject to either of the budget cuts.

At the same time, the bill would establish a new scholarship program that would provide $1000 to each qualifying freshman attending public and private schools in Missouri.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said, "All this is is an effort to take what would be future appropriations for public universities, shove it into a formula where more than half of that money goes to private universities, who by the way can continue to raise their tuition...in exchange for buildings."

But Senate Majority Leader, Charlie Shields, St. Joseph, said the proposal would ensure representatives from higher education institutions lobby for financial aid for students just as hard as they lobby for their institutions.

Earlier in the day, leglisators attempted to stick legal authorization onto an unrelated bill that would allow the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority to give proceeds from the loan sale to the state. The MOHELA interim director has told the legislature that legal authorization is necessary to allow the sale to move forward.

After the legal authorization was proposed, another representative authored an amendment that would have attached prohibitions on stem cell research and abortion on the buildings constructed by MOHELA funds. That amendment postponed the entire issue.

Meanwhile, legislators have worked out a spending plan for the profits expected from a sale of college loans by MOHELA. This proposal along with Bearden's must be approved by both chambers before 6 pm today.

MU would get $85 million for a Health Sciences Research Center, $2 million for a life science business incubator and $3 million for a plant science research facility under the plan passed Thursday.

Graham said the governor needs to step in to stop Bearden from making the passage of his proposal a requirement for House consideration of the MOHELA spending plan.

"I don't think that the public universities of this state ought to agree to choke off their ability to compete from now until the end of time in exchange for a onetime appropriation of capital projects. It's not worth the tradeoff."