JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Republicans removed $31 million for MU’s Ellis Fischel building project on Wednesday and admitted they were punishing Columbia’s senator.
Republicans said they removed the project from the bill because of Democratic Sen. Chuck Graham’s part in a nine-hour filibuster.
Although the bill must still go through the House of Representatives, Republicans are claiming there is no way to add MU’s project back in. The bill may not have any real impact on projects for Columbia’s future for two reasons:
n Money taken from Columbia was not appropriated to any other university and will remain in a general fund.
n If Republicans cannot sway the Democrats, the money they appropriated will expire before the MOHELA bill becomes legal.
Republican Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-Buchanan, said the constitution prohibits them from adding projects to the MOHELA appropriations bill, which the governor did not recommend. But, if the governor chooses to do so, he can add a governor’s amendment and have the building added back to the list.
Graham blames the governor for the loss to his district.
“The governor has no one to blame but himself; he controls the list,” he said.
Graham said the governor, not the Senate, has the ability to add the project back to the list and said, “Matt Blunt has never been supportive of the Columbia campus.”
The project could be added to another appropriation bill such as House Bill 19, which has not passed through the House or gone to the Senate.
Columbia’s exclusion may be more of a political show than substantial public policy because the appropriations authorized by the bill will expire on June 30. The MOHELA bill, if approved, will not go into effect until weeks after the appropriation expires.
Unless Republicans can get a constitutional majority vote, a two-thirds majority of both the House and the Senate, during this session, the plans detailed in the current MOHELA appropriations bill will have to be appropriated again. At that time, the Columbia project could potentially be added to the bill.
The exclusion of many MU building projects came after Graham conducted a second filibuster on the proposed MOHELA bill. The list of schools benefiting from the loan authority’s sale is in a separate appropriations bill that was considered and passed immediately after the MOHELA bill was approved.
“Senator Graham knows very well that if a senator from a certain district did not support the bill, they would not receive funding,” said Jessica Robinson, the governor’s spokesperson.
When the project was first introduced by Blunt in 2005, MU was slated to receive $175 million to create a Health and Life Sciences Center and a business incubator, the largest amount of funds from the sale. Following objections to stem cell research in the new buildings, MU lost funding for the Health Science Center
After Graham’s participation in a filibuster on the issue in March, the project list was amended to only include $31 million for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and $24 million for plant sciences centers for MU’s auxiliary programs.
Following Wednesday’s filibuster, the Senate passed the appropriations bill that excluded the cancer center, leaving no building projects on the Columbia campus from the proposed MOHELA sale.
Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, said excluding the cancer center had been discussed for some time but the ultimate decision was based on what Democrats did on the MOHELA bill.
“The UMC projects in Columbia are out, but UMC is still getting a large amount of funding,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said in reference to the projects outside the Columbia campus that will be run by the university.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City also lost MOHELA building funding because of the Kansas City senator’s involvement in the filibuster.
Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said that her constituents were against the bill and that Republicans have threatened UMKC’s funding since January while urging Justus to vote for the loan sale.
After being unable to negotiate with the Republican caucus in the last few days, Justus said she decided to join the discussion Wednesday night.
“I’m extraordinarily disappointed the bill passed. I’m disappointed that they decided to be petty and blame senators for doing their job,” Justus said. “And I’m disappointed that they decided to punish our constituents for our actions.”
Shields said the decision to change the buildings list came after it became clear the Democrats were filibustering.
“We looked at it as [Graham and Justus’] view is there should be no MOHELA, which means there should be no funding for their districts,” Shields said. ”In essence, the two senators who filibustered got what they wanted.”