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Bill would remove Boozer from Birmingham-Southern loan decision

In the ongoing effort to get a state loan to Birmingham-Southern College, some Alabama lawmakers want to remove the state treasurer from his role overseeing a higher education lending program created last year.

The Legislature last year, in response to the college’s continued financial hardships, created a state loan program for any Alabama institution of higher education on the brink of closure, in existence for at least 50 years and with sufficient assets to pledge as collateral. Lawmakers dedicated $30 million to it.

Birmingham-Southern applied over the summer for a $30 million loan.

Alabama Treasurer Young Boozer, who the law said would oversee the program, denied the loan, citing the school’s credit rating and inability to repay the state’s money.

Now, Senate Bill 31 from Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, would give oversight of the program to the executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, rather than the treasurer.

Waggoner was a sponsor of last year’s bill and said he’s been frustrated watching the loan denial by Boozer.

“We’re going to go another route,” Waggoner said. “Birmingham-Southern has an economic impact of more than $97 million per year. That’s huge. We recruit companies … for that kind of impact.”

In a column this week, Boozer said the bill “would surrender the hen house to the foxes.”

“After many hours of thoroughly reviewing and investigating the information provided by Birmingham-Southern, I stand by my decision to deny using Alabama taxpayer dollars for a loan to an institution which I believe has been grossly mismanaged for many years,” he wrote. “It is beyond distressed.”

Waggoner’s bill has 21 GOP sponsors.

Alabama Daily News’ Mary Sell contributed to this report.


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