JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After final passage by the House and Senate on Thursday afternoon, the FY 2017 budget will head to Gov. Jay Nixon for his final review.
The $27.2 billion budget includes funds for education, public safety, infrastructure and pro-life programs, among other items. Nixon said that while he was glad the budget was passed, he was disappointed with some funding levels, especially for education.
“Here in Missouri fiscal discipline is a value, so I thank members of the General Assembly for passing the budget on time and answering my call to make smart, fiscally-responsible investments in mental health services and college affordability,” he said. “However, I am disappointed that legislators provided less funding for our K-12 classrooms than I recommended. In the coming days, we will review the budget line by line to ensure we keep the budget in balance, our AAA rating intact and our economy moving forward.”
The General Assembly included a $70.3 million increase for the foundation formula that funds K-12 education. Nixon had asked for an increase of $85 million in his proposed budget.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, expressed his pleasure at both the passage of the budget and the level of education funding included.
“I’m happy with the bill. It’s a budget that’s once again balanced. It’s a budget that’s balanced while investing in our priorities, including record funding for education again,” he said. “We’re pleased with the product we’ve been able to put out.”
The budget also addressed higher education. In addition to a $37.2 million increase in performance funding for the state’s colleges and universities, there’s a $3.2 million cut to the University of Missouri System administration.
Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, who led the House in the budget conference committee with Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, out with illness, said he was pleased with the overall increase for MU while the system admin seemed to understand why their budget was cut.
“We were pleased to get the higher education community to commit to not raising tuition again this year. We’ve given them a 4% increase and I think that was a big win for the students in our state,” he said. “I think they understand the action that was taken the action that was taken against the system administration based on the events of the last fall and how that was handled. I’m hopeful that some changes are in progress and we can get back to being very proud of our flagship university.”
Additional budget lines for higher education include $750,000 to fund a commission to review the MU system’s administrative structure, campus structure, auxiliary enterprises structure, degree programs, research activities, and diversity programs; $3 million to assist the University of Missouri – Kansas City and Missouri Southern in a joint project to create a dental school in southwest Missouri; a $4 million increase for the Access Missouri need-based scholarship program; a $2.5 million increase for the A+ Scholarship program and a $500,000 increase for the Bright Flight scholarship program.
Additional budget lines were included to address law enforcement. Among them were $4.1 million to improve technology for local sheriff’s departments, $500,000 for a pilot project to utilize current technology to allow for better monitoring of offenders on probation and parole and $600,00 for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to hire and train ten additional troopers.
$20 million were provided to revive the state cost-share program to fund transportation projects.
“I’m looking forward to seeing that program move forward because transportation funding is an issue that’s not going to fix the whole problem,” Fitzpatrick said. “But at least in some of those communities that have projects that they can’t fully fund, we have the opportunity now to help get some of those done.”
A gas tax proposal that could provide more transportation funding will be heard in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday. If it passes, voters could approve a 5.9 cent increase of the statewide gas tax.
The Alternatives to Abortion program received $4.3 million. Other pro-life supported budget items included $13.6 million for the Show-Me Healthy Babies Program. The budget also included $10. 8 million for family planning programs as long as those programs and facilities do not perform abortions.