Senate Appropriations Committee passes state budget
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Senate Appropriations Committee passes state budget

Date: April 16, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 3

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed the state's $21 billion budget, which includes a more than 4 percent increase to higher education and the University of Missouri System.

But some Democratic senators don't think that's enough.

"It isn't what the original commitment was and we still are back to our 2001 levels," Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said. "The burden has been shifted over to students because we haven't kept up."

This budget includes more than $430.8 million to the University of Missouri, up from $412.9 million from last year. Jim Snider, senior lobbyist for the UM System, said the only difference between the governor's recommendations and what the Senate approved is that there is $100,000 more appropriated to the UM System.

The state Coordinating Board for Higher Education recommended that funding for colleges and universities be increased by 12.6 percent.

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, said that higher education funding is "absolutely not enough," but that everything is suffering. Bray, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added that the governor has recommended that the coordinating board's recommendation be fulfilled in three years.

The governor's plan would increase funding by more than 4 percent each year. Snider said the university is "generally pleased" with the budget.

"The governor's recommendation was a good one and the Senate and the House has generally recommended this," Snider said.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said it's not surprising that tuition has been steadily rising of the past few years, but added that the legislature and institutions are both to blame for rising tuition.

"The fact that the legislature has reduced commitments of state funds has put pressure on institutions to cover those costs other ways, and that puts pressure on institutions to raise tuition," he said.

The UM System Board of Curators on April 6 voted to increase tuition by 3.8 percent next year. Even with this Nodler still said that he believes that there is a responsibility on all sides.

"Some of the responsibility of increased tuition rests with us and the legislature for not having fully funded higher education," he said. "Some of it rests with institutions that have not gained maximum efficiency from their resources, including the use of faculty time and the return on investments in faculty salary."

The Senate Appropriations Committee made few changes to the budget that was passed by the House last month. However, the committee did restore $250,000 to the UM System that was earmarked for the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life.

Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had removed that money to show disapproval for public funding of that institute.

Founded 11 years ago, the institute is housed at UM-St. Louis and holds seminars and workshops to encourage women to get involved in politics. Some Republican legislators think the institute is partisan.

In a March 15 letter to Elson Floyd, outgoing president of the university system, Icet wrote, "While I realize this ($250,000) is minuscule with regard to UM's overall budget, this action will hopefully draw attention to a problem that should be addressed."

The budget must now be passed by the Senate, which Bray said she expects to happen this week.