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Gov. Holden and Republicans blame each other for education cuts

November 17, 2003
By: Drew Bratcher, Matthew Lunders
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Holden and House Republicans traded accusations Monday about who is to blame for cuts in education.

Holden defended his withholdings to education against Republican calls for him to release more money for education.

"It is ludicrous," Holden said. "Contentions that I would purposely withhold available money to education is wrong and defies logic."

Holden's comments came in response to a petition started by House Republicans for the partial release of the governor's $197 million in withholdings to education.

In July, Gov. Holden ordered $197 million to be withheld from K-12 education after the Department of Revenue's projections for the 2004 fiscal year indicated that actual revenues would be short of the budget the governor had signed.

Republicans maintain the 5.1 percent increase in revenue, a number cited by Holden's own Department of Revenue, over the past four months is enough for Holden to release at least part of his withholdings.

"He knows that the truth is that revenues have come in better than he projected," House Majority Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau said.

"And his arrogance in not wanting to be proved wrong is preventing him for doing for the children in the state of Missouri what he should do which is releasing almost $200 million he has withheld."

However, Holden and Missouri budget director Linda Luebbering said the revenue numbers are misleading. He claimed that figures used by Republicans ignored Medicaid costs and federal tax cuts that will come in later in the fiscal year.

"Now they are attempting to take isolated facts and twist them, and ignore facts that don't tell the case," Holden said.

Tax cuts that the president signed will reduce the amount of taxable income Missourians have. When this effect is accounted for, revenue numbers for Missouri are up only 1.8 percent, Luebbering said.

On Monday Republicans held press conferences in Cape Girardeau, Joplin, and Columbia advocating teachers, students, and citizens sign the petition which is posted on the House website.

"Now every Missourian has the opportunity to tell the Governor his or her tax money should be released to our public schools," House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, said in a statement.

The Missouri Democratic party criticized House Republicans for using the state website for political gain.

"What they are essentially doing is generating this petition on the state dime, and then they are going to turn around and use this in their political campains," said Jim Kottmeyer, Executive Director of the Missouri Democratic Party.

Withholdings to K-12 education have caused some Missouri school districts to cut teachers and programs, and led many to take legal action.

Three Kansas City school districts appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court last week to determine whether or not the governor has the right to cut money to education in economic hard times after a Cole County judge ruled that the governor has the right to withhold education funds.

The withholdings are also the leading stimulant to Attorney Alex Bartlett's planned suit on behalf of over 200 school districts challenging the constitutionality of the state's funding formula.

Jim Morris, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Education said that most of the money that the governor has withheld is basic foundation formula money.

The foundation formula is the complex mathematical equation used to distribute money to school districts. In 1993 it was adopted in order to make funds to school districts more equitable.

However, increased underfunding to the formula has created a disparity between suburban and urban/rural districts. The Missouri Constitution protects equal education opportunity for all Missouri public school students.