House Budget Committee to vote on new state budget revisions Wednesday

Monday, March 5, 2012 | 8:57 p.m. CST; updated 12:14 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 6, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Missouri House Budget Committee will mark up a new state budget for the next fiscal year Wednesday.

Last week, committee chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, announced a new budget proposal that would end a state program providing support for the blind to help restore Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed cuts to higher education.

At its hearing Wednesday, committee members will discuss changes to the proposed bill and can vote to send it to the House floor for approval.

Silvey's proposed budget would allocate $379 million — $31 million more than under Nixon's proposal — to the University of Missouri System.

"We are going to value higher education — we are going to make it a priority — and we're going to balance the budget," Silvey told the Associated Press last week.

But President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said Monday that the Senate disagrees with Silvey's proposed cuts to funding for the blind and is unlikely to compromise when it reviews the budget.

UM System spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said no matter what happens in the legislature, the UM System makes its plans based on the governor's recommended budget and will only make revisions to the plan after Nixon signs a final state budget in June.

"As always, the University of Missouri System appreciates the governor's and legislature's recognition that funding for public higher education should be a top priority," said Hollingshead, according to a statement issued last week.

Over the past two months, system administrators have made several trips to testify in front of the committee and make the case for adding funds to the higher education budget. Hollingshead said Monday that there are no plans for system administrators to testify in Jefferson City this week.

In February, the UM System Board of Curators voted at a special meeting to limit tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students to the rate of inflation, 3 percent, while increasing tuition for out-of-state undergraduate students at three of its campuses by more than 7.5 percent.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said it's too soon for the university's budget office to have any definite answers in response to a possible change in the higher education budget but that MU will continue to watch the process closely.

Nixon had originally proposed cuts of $106 million to higher education but added $40 million back into the budget after Missouri joined a settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage companies.

"We face many challenges in ensuring that our state's budget is balanced, and we've had to make difficult decisions," Nixon said in a statement Thursday. "This proposal is just plain wrong."

The new budget plan takes into account $10 million more in lottery sales than what the governor initially projected and a $5 million cut in local school district funding that Silvey said would have only been worth $5 per pupil.

It also makes changes to the governor's proposal for a pay raise for state employees. Nixon originally called for the raises to take effect in January instead of July. Silvey's plan pushes the start date for the raise to July, but only for employees earning less than $70,000 a year.

The Associated Press and Missouri Digital News reporters Jordan Shapiro and Matthew Patane contributed to this report.

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