JEFFERSON CITY - The senator representing the town of Missouri's largest university was appointed Tuesday as the second in command of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, announced Tuesday that Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would fill the post as the committee's vice-chairman.
When asked whether it would be a conflict of interest that the single biggest employer in Schaefer's district, the University of Missouri, is funded by the Approrpiations Committee, Shields said it's something to be valued.
"Sen. Schaefer has a good record of being supportive of higher education in our state, putting him as vice-chair of appropriations sends a strong message that I value higher education and what we're trying to do to move this state forward. That's a real positive for not only the University of Missouri, but for all of higher education," Shields said in a phone interview.
"I appreciate Sen. Shields' faith in my abilities to serve as vice-chair," Schaefer said in the press release. "I also look forward to working side-by-side with Sen. Mayer as we work to continue to pay for the critical functions of government during this budget crisis without causing long-term negative effects to the quality of life and services Missourians have come to expect."
Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, was appointed last month as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, stepped down saying he wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest with his campaign for Congress. Nodler said he he also looks forward to working with Schaefer.
"I was pleased when I heard he'd been appointed," Mayer said in a telephone interview. "I think he has shown knowledge and ability to tackle difficult situations. I'm confident in his ability to do the job."
Another member of the committee -- Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring -- said it'll be important in the upcoming legislative session to have strong leadership that recognizes the difficulties the budget crisis will bring.
"I hope he will do well. I think he could," Barnitz said.
Barnitz also said the fact that Schaefer has only served in the senate for one legislative term could be a blessing or a curse.
"He hasn't had the experience. That can be good. He won't have as many preconceived notions of where cuts need to be made," Barnitz said.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, was also appointed to the committee. Shields said his appointment was based on his experience in the budgetary process when he served in the Missouri House of Representatives.
"Unlike the federal government, we can't print money or borrow from China--we have a constitutional mandate to not spend more than we have and I am committed to continuing the tradition of passing a balanced budget," Lembke said in a press release.
The budget process will begin on Dec. 7 with hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee.