When the state legislature passed its version of the budget in spring, it had restored all of Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed budget cuts to higher education. Saying the budget was balanced, the legislature sent it to Nixon to be signed. Then, somehow, he found reason to shave $9 million from the $24 billion higher education fund. Is anyone else having déjà vu? This kind of feels like the budget cuts we’ve been getting for three years now.
We understand the budget has to be balanced, which often means cuts for some programs, but enough is enough. Higher education in Missouri has been on the chopping block too many times, and we are already one of the most underfunded states when it comes to education. Cuts like this will not be sustainable forever.
This is an election year, Nixon. Don’t think we’re not paying attention. College students might not have the best voter turnout, but if the More for Less campaign last semester is any indication, we’re pretty serious about our college funding.
What’s worse, this cut seems pretty symbolic. Nixon said the budget could not be balanced without cuts to higher education throughout the budgeting process, but the legislature proved him wrong by finding a way to avoid them. House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey said Nixon’s cuts were completely political, and we can’t say we disagree. It seems Nixon didn’t want to admit he was wrong. His reason for the cut was to balance the budget, which he apparently found to be $50 million out of budget. Regardless of whom was doing his or her math correctly, Nixon’s changes didn’t even balance the budget, since his changes only shifted $15 million. Nixon’s problem with the budget wasn’t even solved.
On top of that discrepancy, Nixon just signed a bill that promises to match higher education institutions’ raised funds with state funds for some construction projects. The bill only applies to certain projects, but it’s not hard to see this bill could cost the state much more than $9 million. Last year, renovations to Switzler and Tate halls cost $15 million. Had this bill been signed then, the state would have owed MU $7.5 million, and we’re just one university. Missouri is home to dozens of higher education institutions — if just two have projects the size of Switzler and Tate halls’ renovations, this bill backfires. We’re not against the offer, but it’s illogical. Don’t take away $9 million and then offer even more with a catch. Either the state is making empty promises or Nixon didn’t need to cut higher education this year. Either way, Nixon should be consistent in what he signs. And if this bill is an attempt to distract us from the $9 million, it isn’t working.
When the legislature passed a budget restoring higher education funding, Missouri students had a taste of what it felt like to go to school in a state that cares about higher education. That feeling ended with Nixon’s changes — he reminded students Missouri is the sixth worst state when it comes to funding public colleges and universities. We didn’t lose much, but this was not a step in the right direction. Hopefully Nixon doesn’t expect these changes to go unnoticed by students. More importantly, it’d be a mistake for him to think students won’t head to the polls in November and let him know what we think of his recent actions.