JEFFERSON CITY — Columbia's state senator was appointed Tuesday as second-in-command of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls the budget.
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, announced Tuesday that Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would fill the post of the committee's vice chairman.
The committee funds MU, the single biggest employer in Schaefer's district.
"Sen. Schaefer has a good record of being supportive of higher education in our state, putting him as vice chair of appropriations sends a strong message that I value higher education and what we're trying to do to move this state forward," Shields said. The "That's a real positive for not only the University of Missouri, but for all of higher education."
"I appreciate Sen. Shields' faith in my abilities to serve as vice chair," Schaefer said in a news release. "I also look forward to working side-by-side with (Appropriations Chairman) Sen. Mayer as we work to continue to pay for the critical functions of government during this budget crisis without causing long-term negative effects to the quality of life and services Missourians have come to expect."
Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, was appointed last month as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, stepped down, saying he wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest with his campaign for Congress. Nodler said he also looks forward to working with Schaefer.
"I was pleased when I heard he'd been appointed," Mayer said. "I think he has shown knowledge and ability to tackle difficult situations. I'm confident in his ability to do the job."
Another member of the committee — Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, — said it'll be important in the upcoming legislative session to have strong leadership that recognizes the difficulties the budget crisis will bring.
"I hope he will do well," Barnitz said. "I think he could."
Barnitz also said Schaefer's short tenure so far — only one legislative term — could be good or bad.
"He hasn't had the experience. That can be good. He won't have as many preconceived notions of where cuts need to be made," Barnitz said.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville, was also appointed to the committee. Shields said his appointment was based on his experience in the budgetary process when he served in the Missouri House of Representatives.
"Unlike the federal government, we can't print money or borrow from China — we have a constitutional mandate to not spend more than we have, and I am committed to continuing the tradition of passing a balanced budget," Lembke said in a press release.
The budget process will begin on Dec. 7 with hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee.