Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

May 13, 2005

Profile: Rep. Brad Lager

We plan to feature different members of the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate. This week we focus on Rep. Brad Lager (R-Maryville), chair of the House Budget Committee. "What impressed me and a lot of other people in the Capitol was the way higher education worked with us as partners this year," Lager said. "I think a continued partnership will serve higher education well next year."

Lager, a lifelong resident of Maryville, Mo., earned a bachelor's degree in computer management systems from Northwest Missouri State University in 1997. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2002, he served on the Maryville City Council, and was the city's youngest councilman ever.

Lager represents District 4, Atchinson, Holt, Nodaway and western Worth County. In addition to chairing the Budget Committee, he serves on the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements and Leases Oversight; Joint Committee on Court Automation; Joint Committee on Legislative Research; and as the Chair of the Subcommittee for Joint Committee on Capital Improvements.

Lager sees the University's significant impact in his own district in the partnership between the University and Northwest Missouri State University. "As we develop and enhance plant-made pharmaceuticals, we will see an increased number of cooperative partnerships with the University on the research side," he said. "The University and Northwest make a great team."

Higher education serves as an incubator for economic development, Lager said. "We have a demand-driven economy, and our schools and colleges produce what businesses demand," he said. "As we enter into a changing economic cycle with the life sciences and biotechnology, higher education plays a vital role. These are jobs that demand a new skill set for tomorrow, and that's where higher education comes in."

Key to economic development, according to Lager, is research in areas like the life sciences. As the land grant and research institution for the state, the University of Missouri has the unique ability to attract federal research funds. "The University is the tool to maximize the state's opportunities to bring down federal dollars, and it is doing a great job of succeeding," he said.

Lager notes the greatest challenge facing higher education continues to be tuition. "The double-digit tuition increases have gotten people's attention," he said. "The reality is we have not been able to put as much state funding into higher education as we had hoped. I think many people feel a sense of frustration about that, and what to do."

As chair of the Budget Committee, Lager felt the legislature had taken all that they could from higher education in the past. "If you go back about four fiscal years, you see that higher education has taken a more than proportionate amount of withholdings and reductions," he said. "We had come to a point where we were sacrificing education -- both elementary and secondary education and higher education -- to watch programs like Medicaid grow and grow."

In the end, the Senate-House Conference Committee made a collaborative effort to maintain funding for higher education at current levels.

Higher education institutions worked as partners this session, an approach that legislators noticed and appreciated. "Higher education acknowledged the difficulties we were all facing with the budget, and you didn't come to the Capitol demanding and expecting $100 million in increased funds," he said. "We knew this was going to be a difficult year and a difficult process, and you understood that."

When there was discussion about potential reduced funding for University of Missouri Extension, Lager heard positive feedback about Extension's services both from people in his own district and from other representatives. "It is a value-added service that the University provides to Missourians, and it should be supported," he said.

The fiscal year 2006 budget also saw an increase in support for the School of Dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "We all acknowledged that there are challenges in the dentistry field, and the dental school was facing demands that included accreditation and the need to kick out more dentists into the field," Lager said.

Lager is proud of the open dialogue and process followed in his first year as Budget chair. He predicts that once the foundation formula is settled, more attention will turn to higher education. "We will have to continue to balance the demands of Medicaid growth and funding needs for elementary and secondary education, but higher education will be a top priority."

Back to index