MOHELA fight begins
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MOHELA fight begins

Date: January 29, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 389

JEFFERSON CITY - More than a month after Gov. Matt Blunt announced that he might call a special session to discuss legislation to sell part of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority's assets, he has yet to mention the notion again.

However, spokesperson Jessica Robinson, said nothing has been eliminated, but would not disclose any more detail about it.

But even without specific action from the governor, bills regarding the sale of MOHELA have now been introduced and are drawing party lines.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, introduced a higher education package Monday that includes support for the governor's plan for the selling of MOHELA assets.

"It's the closest thing to free money that we have ever seen," he said.

Nodler's bill, like the governor's plan, would allow $335 million to be allocated to universities for new buildings.

"For a long time they were either not funded or underfunded," said President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons,  R-Kirkwod. "This will allow us to catch up with our infrastructure."

Democrats last week, however, gathered in support of Wes Shoemeyer's, D-Adair County, MOHELA plan. He wants to use about $35 million of MOHELA's assets to scholarships and loan forgiveness, which he said is the purpose of MOHELA. His plan would then use the $35 million it frees up in the budget, along with bond money, for capital projects.

Nodler said Shoemeyer's plan relies on public debt.

"This is a 'Cash and Carry' proposition," Nodler said of his plan. "One relies on borrowing and another on funding."

Shoemeyer said education is worth borrowing for and because he identified some of the revenue source, the bonding is not irresponsible.

"That's responsible borrowing," he said. "That's the first time that a revenue source has been identified for the borrowing since I've been here."

Both bills must still be heard and voted on in committee before they reach the Senate floor.