JEFFERSON CITY — Higher and lower education were big winners in Missouri budget negotiations Wednesday, as both received increases over the current fiscal year.
Higher education funding received an increase of around $20 million over the current year. Public schools got a boost with a $106 million increase for the foundation formula. The formula distributes state aid to elementary and secondary schools across the state.
Members of the Appropriations Conference Committee, composed of legislators from both chambers, agreed to the higher numbers between the House and Senate budgets for most aspects of education funding.
The committee agreed to fund higher education institutions with the levels recommended by the Senate — $20 million more than the House version. The UM system would receive just more than $9 million of that.
Leaders of the appropriations committees in both the House and Senate said they would send letters to higher education institutions asking what impact the additional funds would have on future tuition increases.
House Budget Committee Chair Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said the legislature has been blamed for tuition increases at higher education institutions over the past few years.
“Now that we are increasing (funding), they’re getting half back what they were cut a couple years ago. What impact is that going to have on tuition or potential future tuition increases?” he asked.
Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said he wants to be sure the legislature does not attempt to prevent institutions from increasing tuition. He said sending letters to state colleges and universities inquiring about tuition increases isn’t as extreme as it could be, but he fears some legislators could have a tendency to do more.
“I think it’s an example of the legislature micromanaging, and the legislature probably meddles into too many things as it is,” he said.
Harris pushed for the committee to accept last year’s funding levels for programs affiliated with the university system, such as the hospital and MOBIUS, which links libraries at the state’s higher education institutions.
“I was pleased that I was able to go in there today and obtain more support and more funding for the University of Missouri. That helps Columbia and that helps the University of Missouri system,” Harris said.
Bearden said higher-than-expected state revenues can help provide the additional funding for education in the coming year.
The conference committee continued working on other sections of the budget late Wednesday night. After the committee finishes with the budget, both chambers must pass it before it goes to the governor. The legislature’s constitutional deadline for passing the budget is May 7.