The University of Missouri Board of Curators met Friday morning, and the curators say they are concerned about statewide spending cuts that directly affect the UM System.
Missouri governor Jay Nixon froze 400 million dollars in statewide spending in response to threats to override his veto of House Bill 253, a tax-cutting bill that Nixon said would drain state revenue. Republicans have enough seats in the state legislature to override the Democratic governor’s veto in September if they all agree to do so.
The spending freeze has amounted to $26.4 million cut from programs across the UM System. For example, MU’s medical school was planning to add eight students and create a clinical campus in Springfield, but cannot follow through on those plans for now due to the spending freeze. UM System President Tim Wolfe said he has encouraged legislators not to override the governor’s veto on House Bill 253, thereby ending the freeze.
“We’ve got in our sights those individuals that we can either flip or make sure that their vote that they had previously stands up,” Wolfe said.
UM spokesperson John Fougere said he is working with campus communication representatives to make sure they effectively communicate how the override and continued spending freeze would affect all four University of Missouri campuses.
“All our campuses, we’re going to make sure they’re prepared as well as far as messaging and being on the same page, and make sure we have a concerted effort so it’s on both the government relations side and the media side as well,” Fougere said.
The board of curators also approved funding for fiscal year 2015, including $51 million to increase education and research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics—commonly referred to as STEM fields. UM System Vice President for Finance Tom Richards said the Missouri Department of Economic Development has encouraged the UM System to focus on getting students to study STEM fields.
“I was told a few weeks ago that the number one complaint they get from Missouri businesses about hiring people from Missouri is that we don’t have enough adequately trained people in the state for the jobs that are available,” Richards said.
The curators also approved a request for 194 million dollars for what they call critical repairs at all four University of Missouri campuses, including renovations at the building that houses MU’s college of engineering. In a request for funding, the board’s finance committee noted UM System facilities currently need $1.3 billion in repairs and renovations, and that the system hasn’t been able to fully fund those repairs since 2002.