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Riley seeks release of $20 million in 2-year college funds

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley has urged the state school board to release $20 million in two-year college system funds that he said is needed to meet worker training commitments of industries such as Toyota and Honda.

Former Interim Chancellor Thomas Corts had agreed to make the $20 million available to state agencies overseeing the training for the industries, but the board put a hold on the funds amid questions about Corts’ action before he resigned Feb. 28.

By halting the funds, Riley said, the board “seriously hampered the state’s ability to meet time-sensitive commitments already made to existing industries.”

The governor, who outlined the problem in a letter to the board, plans to ask the board to release the funds when it meets Thursday.

Board member Randy McKinney of Orange Beach told The Birmingham News that Riley and his staff have proved there was nothing sinister in Corts’ efforts to provide the training money.

“I believe the board will move to oblige the commitments as soon as possible,” McKinney said.

Board members have said they did not know the $20 million was for work force training when they froze it and canceled Corts’ agreements.

State Board Vice President Sandra Ray said Monday she believes Riley now has explained the use of the money and the board is probably obligated to release it. But she said Riley and Corts could have provided more information earlier.

“That probably would have saved some of the confusion,” she told the News.

The money is for recruiting, training and other commitments made to companies, including $6.5 million for Toyota, $5 million for Honda and $2 million for International Shipholding Corp. in Mobile.

“These work force-training commitments are typical incentives used to either recruit new industries or expand existing operations in the state,” Riley wrote in his letter to the board.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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