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In the early morning hours Tuesday, the Missouri Senate approved a plan for spending proceeds from the partial sale of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority or MOHELA. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
The MOHELA appropriations bill that came before the senate put most of the roughly 470 million dollars toward capitol improvement projects at universities and community colleges.
Democratic Senator Tim Green of St Louis County described the MOHELA spending bill this way.
Indeed, funding for university capitol projects has been low in recent years...that's why bill supporters say it's smart to use funds from the proposed sale of MOHELA assets on capitol projects.
The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is Republcian Chuck Gross of St Charles County.
Critics of the spending plan say it puts money into buildings without reigning in tuition and fee increases.
Kansas City area democrat Victor Callahan says buildings don't do much good if students can't afford to take classes in those buildings.
Republican Governor Matt Blunt made a rare appearance in the senate side gallery Monday as lawmakers debated the MOHELA appropriations bill inside the chamber.
Blunt proposed selling MOHELA in January and using the money for capitol projects on the campuses of four year universities.
Blunt says many of the capitol projects will help rehabilitate outdated buildings.
The bill that came before the senate includes funds for capitol projects at universities and community colleges as well as money to pay off some state debt and funding for federally qualified health clinics which serve the uninsured.
Efforts to shift funds from debt reduction to universities or other areas of state government failed.
Republican Senator Matt Bartle of suburban Kansas City argued the debt reduction part of the bill is something that benefits all taxpayers.
Bartle made his remarks to Democratic Senator Pat Dougherty of St Louis who tried to amend the bill.
Dougherty urged lawmakers to use the money for scholarships instead of debt reduction...He disputed Bartle's claim that the debt reduction benefits all taxpayers.
Now that the House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the bill, lawmakers will meet in conference committee to work out a compromise.