*An earlier version of this article misstated the area Rep. Caleb Rowden represents.
COLUMBIA — State legislators and university administrators addressed MU students' concerns about a state tax-cut bill Thursday in a forum at the MU Student Center.
Reps. Chris Kelly, Caleb Rowden and John Wright debated the effects House Bill 253 could have on higher education funding. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in June, and legislators will meet next week to vote on a possible override.
"We need serious money," Kelly, D-Columbia, said of public universities. "We don't need to be doing evidently reckless legislation."
The bill could lead to a $692 million drop in state revenue, according to the legislative fiscal note. Educators, administrators and students across higher and lower education have mobilized against the override in recent weeks.
The Missouri Students Association organized Thursday's forum to educate students about how tax reform could affect them. All six members of the Boone County delegation were invited to speak. A few hundred students attended the event, and some asked legislators to defend their positions.
University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe spoke against the bill, saying the state needs to continue to fund services students count on.
Wolfe said the bill could lead to a tuition increase of 8 percent to 16 percent. It would end a state sales tax exemption on college textbooks, adding an average of $200 in costs during a student's four years, Wolfe said.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton encouraged students to voice their opinions about the bill to their legislators.
Rowden, the sole Republican lawmaker who attended the event, represents the district in northeast Boone County and parts of Randolph and Audrain counties.* He said Nixon is presenting Missourians with a false choice between supporting education and supporting the tax-cut bill.
"If, for one moment, we think that education and economic development are not irrefutably connected, we're deceiving ourselves," he said.
Rowden said the bill could put more money in taxpayers' pockets, stimulating the economy and generating more tax revenue to invest in education. He said he hasn't decided whether he will vote to override the governor's veto.
Kelly said House Bill 253 was irresponsibly drafted and included "sloppy" provisions that could lead to a $1.2 billion drop in revenue.
Sponsors of the legislation "need to thank their lucky stars that their bill is not judged by academic or business standards," he said. "This bill is a disgrace to the legislature."
Wright, D-Rocheport, emphasized the importance of funding higher education to produce more science and technology graduates who can help grow the state's economy.
MSA President Nick Droege, who has publicly opposed the legislation, said his goal for the forum was to send a message to lawmakers that students care about this bill.
Droege sent emails to MU students, urging them to learn about the bill and engage with legislators on the issue. He said this was probably MSA's most visible political stance in recent memory.
"I hope that tonight shows that statewide, students are paying attention to what's happening in higher education," Droege said.
Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.