higher ed dominates budget
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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

higher ed dominates budget

Date: March 27, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The governor's higher education recommendations survived the first day of House action Tuesday.  But because of complicated House rules, higher education monies could still vary before the budget debate is over in the House later this week.

Columbia's two Democrat representatives dominated the higher education discussion although no amendments to change the appropriation amount were introduced.

According to House rules, once the preliminary budget is set, the total amount cannot change. This means if House members want more money added to one section of the budget it must balance out by the same amount being removed from another part of the budget. 

That tends to discourage amendments to increase spending for any one agency since the amendment sponsor has to identify another agency from which to take the money.

"Well, the challenge of where we go is all about priorities, so if we think that's a higher priority than something else, then we need to adjust the state budget and put more money into that program and less money into other programs," said Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R- St. Louis County.

Representative Judy Baker, D-Columbia, said  higher education should be more of a priority and the governor and the Budget Committee did not propose enough money to fund higher education.

"I think if you went to the citizens of  the state of Missouri, many of them, I think a majority of them would say that access to higher education and making it affordable is one of their high priorities," Baker said.

In the governor's budget, which he proposed following the State of the State in January, Matt Blunt recommended a 6.2 percent increase for higher education. The House Budget Committee proposed a 6.3 percent increase.

According to Icet, Missouri's four-year institutions requested a 12.6 percent increase for the next budget year that begins July 1.

Baker said granting the 12.6 percent requested by universities would significantly help with tuition.

"We don't even fund our schools at the fifty percent level so tuition now out paces the state fund," Baker said. "We can't keep allowing our higher education institutions to hobble along on a starvation diet."

The House also discussed primary and secondary education funding. Several amendments were introduced including help for teachers with blind students and several regarding the the Virtual School program, which began last year.

The House budget plan would double the amount of funding the Virtual School program got for the current budget year.  The House Tuesday rejected three amendments to reduce that increase.

The House will not take final action on the education budgets until this finish debate on all of the agency budget bills later this week.