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April 15, 2010 Volume 31, No. 27

A budget balancing act

Governor Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon, right, chatted with custodians Judy Geotz and David Lee when he visited MU’s Reynolds Alumni Center April 7 to discuss his blueprint to “right-size” state government and to close a $500 million gap in next year’s state budget. Shane Epping photo


Gov. Nixon stands by tuition freeze agreement

As the Senate Appropriations Committee worked in Jefferson City to slash $500 million from next year’s state budget, Gov Jay Nixon visited the MU campus April 7 to give an update on his administrations efforts to refocus priorities.

He said that state tax revenues continue to lag even though the economy is slowly improving. Nixon pointed out that tax revenues last month were $100 million less than in March 2009. “That presents us with a challenge familiar to all hardworking families and businesses across our state. We have to balance the budget, get savings wherever we can and be smart about spending,” Nixon said.

The governor said that he would stand by an agreement he made last November with the state’s public colleges and universities. That agreement freezes undergraduate, in-state tuition in exchange for the schools accepting a cut in state funding of no more than 5 percent. For MU, that would mean a cut of nearly $10 million compared to the state appropriation for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

That agreement had been called into question a few days earlier when the Senate Appropriations Committee cut an additional $15 million from higher education. When asked by reporters if that negated his tuition freeze agreement, Nixon said there was still time to work things out.

He pointed out that the House Budget Committee had stuck to his recommendation on higher education funding, and the Senate had not yet begun debating the appropriations committee’s recommendation. If necessary, Nixon said, the two legislative bodies could work out their differences when versions of the appropriations bill are reconciled by a joint conference committee.

The governor also said that he applauded a piece of legislation being considered in this session “that will correct an inequity in the amount of scholarship aid for higher education.” He was referring to the Access Missouri program, which provides need-based scholarships.

Currently, that program gives almost twice as much in scholarship aid to students attending private schools as it does to public college students. “Needy students deserve the same level of support, no matter where they decide to go to college,” Nixon said. In a statement following Nixon’s visit, Gary Forsee, president of the University of Missouri System, said he appreciated the governor’s and the legislature’s work on the 2010-11 fiscal year budget.   

“As the budget process has worked its way through the House and Senate in the past couple of weeks, we have been very engaged in representing our value and accountability,” he said.