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Missouri legislature appropriates public higher education

May 02, 2006
By: Ferdous Al-Faruque
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri legislature passed more than $889 million toward higher education in the state. The appropriation includes more than $413 million for the University of Missouri System, a 2.7 increase from the current fiscal year.

The bill faced some opposition in the House where it passed 92-64. In the Senate, however, the bill passed virtually without any resistance, with only one senator voting against it.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said the appropriations were insufficient.

"The amount that was appropriated here is basically the same amount that was appropriated in fiscal year 1999," Harris said, "so it takes us back to eight years ago."

Harris said the appropriations did not take into consideration inflation rates since 1999.

"(If you take into consideration inflation) then you're well below 1999 levels," he said. "Then your in the early 1990s."

Harris said he was concerned higher education institutions would have to raise tuition to make up for lack of appropriations. He said the current legislation "is taking us back to the 20th century, when we should be going toward the 21st century."

Harris said that in recent times the highest funding for higher education was under Holden for the 2002 fiscal year, but Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, said that the following year Holden cut $80 million in higher education appropriations.

Robb disagrees with Harris on a lot of instances.

"Representative Harris says a lot of things, and I would disagree with 99.9 percent of everything he says," Robb said. "It is true that the level of funding is no higher than fiscal year 1999 but it's certainly not the fault of the Republican majority at this time."

He said it was Holden who stripped higher education of funding and said the 2006 appropriation was a significant improvement in the past five years.

Robb said higher education institutions know that there are a lot of competing demands on state revenues.

"Higher education unfortunately has borne the brunt of many of the mistakes that have been made by the state in the past," Robb said. "I think (this bill) is a first step in alleviating some of the problems."