Governor Nixon tries to tap university funds to balance budget

Dec 22, 2011

Reports that Governor Jay Nixon was considering trying to balance the state budget by tapping state universities for about 107 million dollars, including 63 million from the University of Missouri, haven’t been well received. KBIA’s Scarlett Robertson reports the idea appears to be dying down. By Scarlett Robertson, Columbia MO. State representative Chris Kelly, a Democrat, says he thinks the plan is inappropriate. "And I think this plan is about gone," says Kelly. "I think it’s an idea that the governor’s office tried out and I think it’s not receiving good support and I think it’s about evaporated.” According to Kelly, the perception that the state universities have large reserves at their disposal is a false one. He says there there are better ways to balance the budget: “I think the state needs to face up to those problems directly either by cigarette tax or an Internet sale tax, those are some ways to do it.” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairperson Kurt Schaefer, a Republican, says it’s unrealistic and unreasonable to require public universities to use their reserve funds, which are made up of private donations and tuition, to shore up all the other higher education institutions in the state. “It really creates an artificial scenario," says Schaefer, "that looks like higher education is being funded when really its not it’s just being temporarily gapped with an interest free loan from the five institutions.” Schaefer says the Missouri constitution lays out what the state is supposed to pay for, and after public debt, it’s public education: “I think this is the year we need to make it a priority that we are going to fund k-12 and higher ed and arguably have to find some ways to find cost savings and some of those other things that arguably, under the Missouri constitution, that people of Missouri said are top priority for the state of Missouri” Schaefer adds they won’t know really what’s going to happen until the governor makes his recommendations next month during his state of the state address.