JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri's higher education institutions have banded together to press lawmakers for a bigger slice of the budget pie when the House Education Appropriations Committee votes on the higher ed budget Thursday.
State colleges and universities want the Legislature to add $12 million to Gov. Mel Carnahan's proposed budget for higher education.
The supplement would bring the governor's proposed increase closer to the inflation rate for higher education, said Jim Snider, lobbyist for the four-campus UM system.
The problem is neither legislators nor higher education officials know where increased funding for schools would come from.
"We don't have an answer," Snider said. "We're watching what other appropriations committees are doing. Stay tuned."
The House Education Appropriations Committee won't make a significant change in the governor's recommendation, said Committee Chairman Dick Franklin, D-Independence.
Franklin said his committee can do no more for higher education than recommend that the House Budget Committee increase funding _ if it can find an extra $10 million to $12 million.
"I don't have any place to get anything of that magnitude," he said. "I can't find $12 million in the public safety, primary and secondary education and higher education budget."
The Budget Committee has a better chance of supplementing higher education's increase when it takes up appropriations bills next week, Franklin said.
But the Budget Committee's chairman also said she doesn't see where the money would come from. Rep. Sheila Lumpe, D-St. Louis County, said legislators charged higher education officials with finding the money for their proposal.
"We gave the challenge to them to suggest to us where we might find more money," Lumpe said. "We are sympathetic, but we don't have $12 million in the palm of our hand."
Every higher education institution in the state _ from community colleges to four-year universities, public as well as private _ joined the push for a larger increase.
The core budget for higher education would increase under the governor's plan, although the hike wouldn't match the rate of inflation for higher education.
The UM system's operating budget would rise only 2.7 percent. In comparison, the Higher Education Price Index went up 3.8 percent, Snider said.
Regional colleges and universities might face an even tighter budget crunch than the four-campus system. Changes in the retirement system might "decrease the increase" in funding to regional colleges statewide, Lumpe said.
But the UM system would not be affected because it runs its own system. Harris-Stowe State College and regional colleges in Kirksville, Maryville, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Warrensburg, Jefferson City, St. Joseph and Joplin all belong to the Missouri State Employees Retirement System (MOSERS).