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16 June 2011

Stouffer: Governor Withholds Money Promised to Schools

Click to read Sen. Stouffer’s Review of the 2011 Legislative Session.

For the third straight year, the governor will deny Missouri schools the funding promised to them by the General Assembly.

Upon signing the $23.2 billion Fiscal Year 2012 Missouri budget, the governor recently announced $172 million would be withheld. This includes $14.9 million for universities, $1.9 for community colleges and $8 million for school transportation. With these cuts, the governor now has the 7 percent cut to higher education he proposed back in January.

The worst part of this is, after lawmakers worked to add $10 million for school transportation, the governor has gutted the funding yet again. He withheld funding from this area last year and has basically stripped the money for districts to bus kids to and from school again. With gas prices hovering between $3.50 and $4 a gallon, rural districts will get hit the hardest.

The reason behind the withholds is touted as the need to pay for last winter’s blizzard, the Joplin tornado and flooding in Missouri. No serious discussion has taken place on whether or not to tap the state’s rainy day fund to pay for these expenses.

The other reason given is a revenue loss from capping the corporate franchise tax. This surprises me because the franchise tax limit for this year is the same as last year. Additional revenues from this tax were projected to increase, so there is no way to know if the state will actually lose money because of capping the tax. Bear in mind, the governor signed Senate Bill 19, which caps the corporate franchise tax and eliminates it over the next five years

After months of promising schools flat funding this year as compared to the year before, I am disappointed to deliver this news to educators. I am particularly concerned about how rural schools will continue to meet transportation needs with increased costs and reduced revenues.

Lawmakers have worked hard to fund education at the cost of other state programs over the last several years. Few in the education community have noticed or appreciated this commitment. It has been a struggle to meet the state’s needs while funding education at such high levels during down times in our economy. The governor’s decision to put education first, but only when it comes to cuts, makes this news even more difficult to deliver to those educating our future workforce.

There are a lot of folks in the Missouri General Assembly who plan to fight this every step of the way. It is important to note, it is the Legislature’s duty to approve the governor’s proposed budget. The governor should not take it upon himself to pick winners and losers without lawmakers’ consent.

This is not the time to take steps backward. This is the time to move forward on ensuring Missouri students get a first-class education.

Related topics

Fate of Education Reforms Now Decided
Education First in a Balanced Budget
Recognizing Our Best Teachers
Keeping School Funding Stable
Lawmakers Considering Education Reform, Not Reductions

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