Curators hold emergency meeting, discuss Ellis Fischel funding

Nixon might veto a bill that would fund the construction of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.

The UM system Board of Curators held a special meeting by conference call Friday morning to discuss the possibility of Gov. Jay Nixon vetoing a bill that contains funding for the Ellis Fischel Cancer center and 10 other UM system research projects.

UM system President Gary Forsee said the governor would likely put these projects into a bond issue to be voted on by citizens if the bill was vetoed.

“I called this meeting on short notice because I was informed Wednesday morning that the governor was considering vetoing House Bill 22, which means that funding for several of the university’s research projects, totaling $81 million, is in jeopardy,” Forsee said. “This would be a major hit to the university and one that is unacceptable given the promises that have been made by the state regarding higher education.”

Forsee said he drafted a letter regarding the situation after the governor’s office asked him for feedback and he encouraged the board to do the same.

“I owe the governor’s office some feedback and I think the board should consider parallel action,” Forsee said. “At this point, my message to the governor is that the state should fulfill its promises to higher education.”

If the governor vetoes the bill, the UM system might be forced to raise tuition or use funds from the university’s operating budget, an option which Forsee said is unacceptable. Many members of the board also expressed concern that the university’s research projects would be rolled into a bond bill.

“The problem with the bond bill is that it is by no means a given that voters will approve it, especially in the state’s tight financial situation,” Curator Cheryl Walker said.

The board agreed with the majority of the wording in Forsee’s letter, but chose to revise some of the document’s language that Curator Don Downing said might be too confrontational or assertive.

“I don’t think our letter should imply in any way that this governor hasn’t been supportive of higher education since his election, because I really think he has been,” Downing said. “He’s dealing with a mess in Jefferson City.”

The board chose to echo Forsee’s opinion in their letter to the governor, urging Nixon to spare the university’s research projects from a veto.

“We’ve seen higher education take the brunt of tight financial situations before,” Forsee said. “We’re at a tipping point in what higher education can provide and I just want to make sure that sacrifices are being made elsewhere in the state before the university is asked to make even more.”

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