A new wrinkle has developed that could hurt the chances of Governor Blunt’s college capital improvement program passing this legislative session. House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) says the House won’t move on the capital improvements outlined in Governor Blunt’s Lewis and Clark Initiative unless the Senate approves a drastic change in higher education funding that narrowly passed the House. Jetton tells reporters the Access Missouri Scholarship Program is tied to any plan to spend assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, adding that the House won’t move on the Lewis and Clark Initiative proposal until the Senate approves the Access Missouri plan. Access Missouri would change how the state funds higher education. Under it, the state would fund its colleges and universities at the 2002 Fiscal Year level. Any money above the ’02 level would be distributed directly to students, who could spend it at any college, public or private.
Jetton adds that he won’t bring the MOHELA bill to the floor unless it has the votes to pass. And even though the Access Missouri bill received just 84 votes, two more than the minimum, Jetton predicts a vote on Blunt’s plan to pay for college capital improvements might be even tighter. The House Budget Committee Chairman says you could flip a coin to predict whether the Lewis and Clark Initiative would pass the House. The MOHELA board won’t sell the assets to raise the $450 million needed until this summer. If the plan falls apart in the last three weeks of the session, it could be revived during the September Veto Session or early in the next session.