Mo. Senate reduces cuts to higher education

A Senate committee voted to cut less from higher education funding than originally proposed.
Maura Howard / Graphic Designer

The 7 percent cut to state higher education funding proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon could be softened to a cut of 4.8 percent, pending final approval from the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $20 million increase for Missouri’s two and four-year colleges and universities, as well as $20 million for K-12 funding, Monday.

“I’ve talked to every president from every two-year and four-year college and university,” Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said. “Everyone has told me about the benefits of increasing funding.”

Nixon originally proposed the 7 percent cut as part of his budget plan in January.

“This is a substantial increase in Missouri for higher education,” Schaefer said. “What we’ve asked is, ‘What are other places where you can guarantee us that there will be savings for students?’ Those are the areas we needed to identify and focus on.”

Sen. David Pearce, R-31, said the remainder of the meeting regarded funding to the Department of Economic Development, Department of Social Services and Department of Mental Health.

Pearce said once it is passed, the bill will be taken to the Senate floor where a final decision will be made by next week.

The next fiscal year begins on July 1, and the finalized budget must be turned in to the governor on May 6, according to the Senate’s website.

“It was a great day for education,” Pearce said. “It was just a great day.”

The appropriations committee collectively reviewed 13 perfected House bills proposed for Missouri’s next fiscal year.

HB1 through HB13 propose budget updates for several state departments, including the Department of Higher Education. These bills also proposed allocation of portions of the budget to state elected officials and other state funded entities.

The proposed house bill approximates to $23.2 billion.

Of this, $6.4 billion would go towards elementary, secondary and higher educational funding and $70.6 million would go to government elected officials and employees.

Tom Kruckemeyer, Missouri Budget Project Director of Fiscal Policy and Chief Economist, said these departments are being equally affected by budget cuts, particularly regarding transportation and healthcare. He said a lack of taxes is partially to blame.

The first Senate budget session last Wednesday was cut short with 50 items left to review.

Pearce said among the 50 items still to be reviewed Monday was the issue of educational funding from the state. Pearce was serving on the appropriations committee that reviewed the budget.

Pearce said the bottom line is that because Missouri is incapable of deficit spending, it can only spend what little it already has.

“Nobody likes to cut, nobody likes to eliminate programs, but we have to make tough decisions,” Pearce said. “That's the agonizing process that we are in right now.”

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