Governor Nixon has defended his decision to cut off funding for capital improvement projects planned by five universities.

Nixon made the defense during a news conference in Columbia, which took a big hit with the suspension of a $31 million expansion of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. The Office of Administration outlined a total of 13 projects within the University of Missouri system that have been suspended and are under review. Projects have also been suspended at Missouri State University in Springfield, The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and Truman State University in Kirksville.

Nixon told reporters that the projects were suspended, because the sale of Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MoHELA) assets hasn’t generated the money expected. Nixon said the money simply isn’t there to go through with the projects at this time. He said his administration attempted to target projects that weren’t under construction or, at least, were not that far along.

The decision caught state lawmakers off guard. Legislators with projects in their district were hand-delivered letters detailing the decision Wednesday morning.

It was well-known that Nixon didn’t favor the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative devised by former Governor Matt Blunt. The initiative relied on money generated by the sale of MoHELA assets. Nixon claimed the program hampered the ability of MoHELA to fulfill its primary role: providing low-interest loans to college students.

The letters sent to the five institutions warn them not to proceed with the capital improvement projects unless they receive written authorization to do so.

(Matt LaCasse of KFRU provided the audio from the Columbia news conference.)

Download/listen Gov Nixon defends MoHELA project suspension (:30 MP3)