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Missouri lawmakers begin their regular session tomorrow (Wednesday, January 3). And when they do, one of the major issues confronting them will be Republican Governor Matt Blunt's proposal to sell some MOHELA assets to fund college construction projects. The plan would generate 350 million dollars, 30 million of which would go to Missouri State University for renovations and repairs to existing buildings. Republicans control both the House and Senate and opposition to the governor's plan is coming primarily from democrats. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports on the debate over selling some of MOHELA's assets.
The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority or MOHELA is a state agency that provides low interest loans to students and in some cases, loan forgiveness.
Governor Matt Blunt has said selling some MOHELA assets will generate much-needed funds for university capitol projects without having an impact on the ability of MOHELA to offer low interest loans.
But opponents of the governor's plan say selling assets to pay for buildings goes against MOHELA's mission and will hurt its ability to serve students' financial needs.
Democratic representatives Clint Zweifel and Margaret Donelly, both of St Louis County are backing legislation to require MOHELA to direct its assets exclusively toward lowering student loan interest rates and providing loan forgiveness.
Donelly says it's time to refocus the debate on students.
Governor Matt Blunt's spokesman Brian Hausworth says the governor will veto the democrats' bill if it makes it to his desk.
Hausworth says these democrats have good intentions but ultimately are wrong on the issue.
Democrats acknowledge that universities across the state are in dire need of capitol funds.
But they say selling MOHELA assets is the wrong way to generate the money.
Democratic Representative Clint Zweifel.
Supporters of the plan say spending money on construction projects ultimately will benefit students.
The governor's spokesman Brian Hausworth says the plan capitalizes on assets from out of state loans that MOHELA services.
Last November, the MOHELA board voted to establish a fund with 65 million dollars that eventually will pay for the construction projects in the governor's plan.
But MOHELA cannot move forward with dispensing the funds until it has legislative approval.