Legislature OKs education funds

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:13 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s House and Senate sent Gov. Bob Holden an education budget Tuesday that was higher than he had requested — and without the tax increases Holden said were necessary to fund his recommendations.

The budget increase is more than what Holden requested but is structured differently. The budget gives $55 million more than requested to elementary and secondary education while giving $18 million less than requested to high education.

The House passed the higher education budget, 94-31, with an additional $22 million in general revenue over last year, without a tax increase. The UM system would receive about $9 million of the increase. The budget increase is $18 million less than what Holden requested. The Senate passed the same bill unanimously.

Elementary and secondary education would receive an increase of more than $100 million over last year, $55 million more than the governor’s recommendation. This bill passed the House 101-39 and the Senate 33-0.

The House and Senate conference committee on the budget is still working on a few budget bills, including Medicaid funding.

But even an increase begs the question: What increase is good enough? For House Budget Committee Chair Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, the budget is a great step forward in that the state is funding higher education at a higher level than the last two to three years.

But some Democrats argued that higher education is still underfunded. That was enough reason for Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, to vote against the bill, despite the increase.

“We are really appropriating only slightly more to higher ed than we did in 1999,” Harris said. “Those institutions have seen their costs increase — that was five years ago.”

House Minority Floor Leader Rick Johnson, D-High Ridge, said he voted against the lower education budget because he thought it should have received more funding.

With a budget that’s $1 billion larger than last year, Johnson said, the legislature should use $600 million of it to fully fund the foundation formula for public schools.

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