UM System will feel the pinch of Nixon's budget cuts

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | 7:27 p.m. CDT; updated 8:06 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 26, 2014

CORRECTION: Information about Association of American Medical Colleges guidelines was incorrect in a previous version of this article.

COLUMBIA — The $1.1 billion in state budget cuts and withholdings announced by Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday could put a serious dent in MU's building plans for the coming year.


MU has struggled to deal with the growing list of problems in its aging buildings. The loss of state funding for renovations to Lafferre Hall is another hit to plans for renovations on campus. Last summer, the Missourian looked closely at how Campus Facilities tries to keep up with maintenance issues and its focus on major renovations instead of "shotgun" fixes. (Archive links are available to everyone.)

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The governor vetoed $620,000 for a new psychiatric residency program at MU as well as $2.8 million for a new fine and performing arts facilities and $1.5 million for a teaching and research winery addition on campus. 

Two other building projects at MU were put on hold: construction of the Trulaske College of Business's Applied Learning Center, which would cost $10 million, and renovations to Lafferre Hall, which are budgeted for $38.5 million. Money for three more projects on other UM System campuses was restricted, too.

UM System spokesman John Fougere said all those projects together, which he called "pressing," would have boosted the state economy by creating about 2,000 jobs and educating future professionals. UM has raised more than $35 million in private donations for the five projects combined, covering about half the cost, Fougere said.

Nixon held a news conference Tuesday to announce the line-item vetoes and spending restrictions, saying they were necessary because of lagging state revenue and because the General Assembly might override his vetoes of multiple tax breaks it passed during the last day of the legislative session in May.

The governor said there would be no additional state funding for public schools or higher education in the state unless his vetoes are sustained during a special session in September or unless state revenue begins to recover.

UM System has a $1.3 billion backlog of critical facility renovation projects, the Missourian has reported previously. MU has $115 million in critical facility renovations that need to be done within the next year, according to a preliminary appropriations request reviewed by the UM Board of Curators last week. 

The curators last week also approved construction of a six-story, 97,000-square-foot patient care learning center at the School of Medicine, but Nixon restricted the $10 million included in the state budget for that project. The total estimated cost for the building is $45 million.

UM System President Tim Wolfe said in a written statement that the learning center is intended to address a need for more health-care professionals in rural Missouri and would allow MU to lead the way in teaching them.

The patient care learning center would allow the medical school to increase class size from 96 to 128 students, a 33 percent increase. The learning center is part of a partnership with two hospitals in Springfield, where some students will go on to complete their residencies.

The governor also restricted $43.4 million in performance funding for colleges and universities across the state. That would represent a 5 percent budget increase for the UM System.

Schools earn performance funding through achievements in graduation rates, enrollment and quality of learning, Fougere said. 

Nixon also vetoed several projects in Columbia, including $25 million for a new research center and museum for the Missouri State Historical Society, and $483,250 in increased funding for the society.

Columbia Public Schools expected an increase of more than $2 million in state funding, but that money was restricted. These withholdings total about $200,000 a month for as long as they continue, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

The district's "solid cash position" will allow it to continue to operate normally this year, Baumstark said, but the effects of the withholdings — if Nixon's vetoes are overridden or if state revenue fails to meet expectations — will influence the 2015-16 budget.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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