Lawmaker wants to put Mo. Gov. Blunt's college plan on ballot

Monday, May 7, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A Democratic opponent of Gov. Matt Blunt's college building plan pledged Monday to try to put the measure to a statewide vote, if it passes the Legislature.

Rep. Clint Zweifel, of St. Louis, has been one of the most outspoken critics of Blunt's plan to take $350 million from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority to finance college building improvements around the state. He contends it would detract from the agency's mission of making low-cost student loans.

If lawmakers pass Blunt's plan, Zweifel pledged Monday to pursue a rarely used citizen petition process to try to refer the legislation to the November 2008 ballot.

Normally, bills that pass both the House and Senate become law when the governor signs them.

But the Missouri Constitution allows legislatively passed bills to be referred to the ballot if people gather petition signatures from 5 percent of the voters in six of the state's nine congressional districts.

The Republican-led Senate has already passed the Republican governor's higher education legislation. The GOP-led House began debate on the bill Monday.

Besides using the student loan agency to finance buildings, the legislation also would create a new financial-need college scholarship and limit university tuition increases.

Zweifel contends the issue has become so political that some lawmakers aren't considering whether it's good public policy, but are simply going along with the governor or backing the plan because it would finance buildings in their districts.

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