JEFFERSON CITY - A spokesperson for Gov. Matt Blunt announced the governor's decision to defer payments totalling $100 million to five Missouri state universities and the University of Missouri system.
In a conference call Wednesday night with the presidents from each school, Blunt received unanimous consent to move forward with deferring state money from the schools. From March until May, the schools will receive a distributed amount of $14 million per month as opposed to the $47 million that is usually allotted.
Blunt's spokesperson, Paul Sloca, said the money must be deferred so that the government can pay for income tax returns that are being filed early. Sloca assured the deferment is only temporary and the money will be returned to the schools in June, the end of the fiscal year. The money that the state collects from tax filings is what will be turned over to the schools. In the meantime the universities are expected to finance themselves with money from their own reserves.
"Like any business, you want to make sure you have a cash flow. You may have a lot of investments and the state has bills to pay. These are not a shifting of appropriations, these are not new things that are being funded, these are obligations the state's already under to pay. In a fiscally responsible way, you make sure you have the proper cash flow to cover your bills," Sloca said.
The affected schools are Central Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Southwest Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Truman State University, and the University of Missouri system.
Sloca said the deferment of money will not have any impact on university operations, nor will it affect students' tuition. He said the university presidents confirmed that the schools have enough money in their reserves to last them through the three months and no strains will be placed on any aspect of university functions.
"This is part of the governor's response to being fiscally responsible," Sloca said.
House Minority Leader Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia said Blunt's decision is one that contradicts a statement made in his 2005 State of the State Address. A transcript of the speech reads, "A college education is increasingly a requirement for success in the workplace. Therefore, my budget maintains the current level of funding for our state's colleges and universities."
"This governor promised he would not withhold money from our public colleges and universities and today he broke that promise," Harris said. "When you withhold money from higher education when you said you would not do it, you are not being a responsible steward of our taxpayer dollars."
Officials at the University of Missouri, however, did not view the deferment of payments as a potential problem. UM Finance and Administration Vice President Nikki Krawitz said there is currently $32.4 million in uncommitted reserves and $171 million in general operating reserves. The MU system will receive nearly $9 million a month over the three months. Normally the system is given $29 million per month.
"It's just a question of when the cash is going to come in the door. This will not affect any kind of spending," Krawitz said. "We're happy to help the state out through this cash flow crunch."