State to universities: Envision cuts of up to 25 percent

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 | 7:41 p.m. CST; updated 5:31 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 4, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Deputy Higher Education Commissioner Paul Wagner sent a memo Tuesday to the presidents and chancellors of Missouri’s public colleges and universities asking for “impact statements” of various budget cutting scenarios.

The memo came in response to a joint letter, sent Monday to department directors and budget personnel by House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, asking them to prepare scenarios for core budget cuts of 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent in the 2010 budget, which starts July 1.

Icet, R-Wildwood, said Wednesday that it’s “very possible” the state will face a budget shortfall requiring Gov.-elect Jay Nixon to withhold some money appropriated to state agencies and programs.

But Icet said the $342 million projected shortfall appears to be “more toward the pessimistic end of the spectrum than the optimistic end.”

Their letter asks agencies to describe how such cuts would affect people and their program’s services and whether the state spending cuts would result in a loss of matching funds from the federal government or other sources.

Higher education institutions were among the hardest hit during the last round of economically driven budget cuts in 2001-2003. But the newest cutting scenarios are larger than before, Wagner said.

“Unfortunately, the situation appears to be much worse now,” Wagner wrote in his memo.

Neither MU Chancellor Brady Deaton nor Budget Director Tim Rooney was available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The four-campus University of Missouri System, the largest in the state, already has instituted a general hiring freeze, though some positions have been exempt on each campus.

Nixon said he plans to meet Friday with majority party Republicans in the Senate to discuss the state’s financial situation. Nixon said his chief of staff held a similar meeting Tuesday with Senate Democrats and that he also was interested in meeting with House Republicans and Democrats.

Missourian reporter Emily Younker contributed to this report.


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