JEFFERSON CITY - The participation of a University of Missouri-Kansas City organization in a protest last year of the cuts in Missouri's Medicaid program led to a $285,000 cut in the Senate Appropriations Committee's spending plan for the University of Missouri.
Despite the cut, the Senate approved Wednesday a budget almost $4 million higher than the House version.
But the Senate debate on MU's budget centered on the UMKC issue.
"We had to draw a line in the sand to send a message that this type of activity is unacceptable," said Kansas City area Republican Sen. Luann Ridgeway during Senate debate.
Ridgeway is a member of the appropriations committee said the committee had reduced its proposal for the University because of the Kansas City incident.
Ridgeway said part of the group, UMKC's Institute of Human Development, used taxpayer-issued money to send participants to the protest, an event that decried the changes in the Medicaid system. She said its illegal to use state money to support a political event, such as the protest.
"We encourage people to come to the Capitol, but we've suggested, requested, even pleaded with groups to not use taxpayer money for this type of activity," Ridgeway said. "It's highly inappropriate for them to try to influence an outcome of a proposal or measure in this manner."
The part of the group associated with the People First of Missouri organization sent out a brochure claiming they marched around the State Capitol, in front of Gov. Blunt's office, and were part of a rally on the south lawn of the Capitol grounds. Ridgeway said she was among the recipients of the brochure, which was sent to her by the university.
"This group is supposed to be helping the disabled, but, through their actions, they have stolen from them," Ridgeway said.
Ridgeway then suggested sending the $285,000 directly to those who can "truly take care of the disabled."
The Senate rejected by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, to restore the $285,000.
"This is a way of punishing the university for one agency publishing a newsletter (the brochure) that had political overtones," Wilson said after her amendment was refused.
The University was appropriated $402.5 million in state for the current fiscal year that ends June 30. That is provided in one lump sum for the Board of Curators to allocate among the campuses and various university programs.
For the next fiscal year that will begin July 1, the governor recommended in January a 2 percent increase of $410.6 million. The House passed a $409.3 million appropriation.
The Senate approved $413 million.
A House-Senate conference committee will negotiate the various differences between the two versions of the budget.