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Senator Says Foundation Formula Likely Won't Be Fully Funded

April 05, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -Public schools probably won't get all the money they were promised by state government next year, said Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"We probably cannot fully fund the foundation formula at the expense of other programs," he said. But he emphasized not fully funding the formula doesn't mean the schools won't have enough money.

Russell said his committee has been working on the budget every day since March 20 but would not comment on which departments were being eyed for "adjustments."

"I would hope that we would not have to ask Higher Ed. for any further reductions or adjustments," he said. The budget is expected to be discussed in the Senate Appropriations Committee early this week.

The House approved 12 of the 13 budget bills Friday and is expected to vote Monday on the rainy day proposal, the governor's plan to tap the state's emergency fund. Republicans and Democrats agree it is unlikely the bill will get the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the House.

"It's going to have to have an awfully strong vote in the house to pass in the Senate," Russell said. "I really don't feel very good about it."

Even if the rainy day fund passes the House, Russell said his committee will try to find other ways to fund some essential services.

"On paper it (the rainy day fund) gives you some relief," he said. "But as a practical matter it does not give you any long-term relief because next year the budget is likely to be every bit as bad as it is this year."

If money from the rainy day fund were used, the state government would be required to repay one-third of the amount taken from the fund plus interest next year.

If the House sends over an unbalanced budget, Russell said his committee will have to make changes. "We may just have to go back to the first bill and reconstruct the whole budget," he said.

Said Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, "If they don't like the cuts we've made, they'll have to come up with their own, and that's their job."

After nights that went as late as 1 a.m. last week, representatives went home early Friday. The House postponed discussing the rainy day bill until Monday and adjourned around 1 p.m.

"On the budget bills we had very little discussion," Farnen said. "People want to go home, it's been a long week."

Said Budget Committee member Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown,"I feel like we approached this backward. I think it would've been fiscally responsible to discuss the rainy day bill first."

Crawford said he thinks the legislature is unlikely to pass the rainy day fund because of the uncertainty of next year's revenues.

"By not making the cuts this year we'd have to make more next year," Crawford said.

House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, said if the House sends an unbalanced budget to the Senate "people aren't willing to step up and make the cuts that need to be made."

"I feel like it's the legislature's responsibility to balance the budget," Green said. "People want us to do what they have to do at home--to only spend the revenue we have."

Russell said his committee will be finished with the budget in two or three weeks. If the budget is not balanced when it leaves the Senate, the governor has two choices: either make the cuts himself or call the legislature into special session.