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Columbia Missourian

House committee rejects governor’s plan for higher education funding

By BRIA SCUDDER
March 11, 2008 | 8:36 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Budget Committee on Tuesday rejected efforts to restore the governor’s recommendation for more than $13 million in state funds for Missouri’s higher education institutions.

At issue was a health care education program included in the governor’s budget recommendations to expand higher education teaching in health care professions — an initiative termed “Preparing to Care.”

The governor’s proposal had been stripped from the higher education budget plan that was presented to the House Budget Committee by its chairman, Rep. Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, members rejected amendments to restore the funding for the “Preparing to Care” proposal.

In an interview a day before the committee’s session, Icet had voiced concerns about funding new programs when there were questions about the state of the economy. “Given the direction the national and state’s economy seems to be going, I have a question on whether we can spend money on new programs,” Icet said.

Legislative budget leaders have said they need to trim down the original budget plan from Gov. Matt Blunt because of economic uncertainties. Icet had said earlier he hoped to trim $100 million from the governor’s spending plan.

Scott Charton, spokesman for the University of Missouri System, said that the system is not giving up on this initiative. “Missouri has critical need to prepare more health care professionals based on the current and projected shortages in fields including medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry and optometry, among others. We understand that our state legislators must weigh many state needs and make tough decisions, but we believe educating more heath care professionals today and for future generations needs to be at the top of the priority list. We will continue to make the compelling case for the ‘Preparing to Care’ funding as we go forward in the legislative budget process.”

He added that the UM System and thousands of alumni support the “Preparing to Care” legislation.

Columbia Rep. Ed Robb, a Republican and vice chairman of the committee, was among those on the committee who had sought to restore funding for the health education proposal.