February 21, 2014

State Issues

More than 400 University supporters participate in Legislative Day 2014

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Governor Nixon speaks at the Legislative Day Rally at the Capitol.

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Legislative Day attendees wait for the Rally to begin.

Supporters from the University of Missouri System’s four campuses and MU Extension came to Jefferson City on February 18, to participate in the 40th annual Legislative Day sponsored by the University of Missouri Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension.  University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe, MU Chancellor Bowen Loftin, Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Shrader, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton, and UMSL Chancellor Tom George all participated, along with Michael Ouart, Vice Provost for Extension.

Governor Jay Nixon addressed the crowd at a morning rally which also featured President Wolfe and Alumni Alliance Chair Ronda Elfrink.  The campuses had displays in the Third Floor Rotunda featuring research and programs across the state.  Participants capped off the day with an open Legislative Forum in the House Lounge, where several senators, representatives and state higher education leaders spoke to the group and answered questions.

Click here for more pictures from the day’s events.

Higher education institutions to be rewarded for performance under bill passed by Senate

A bill to codify the use of a funding allocation model for public four-year higher education institutions and outlining how future increases in funding will be tied to performance was passed by the Missouri Senate this week.  Senate Bill 492, sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), calls for use of the funding model developed by the Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE), which represents the thirteen public four-year institutions in the state.  It also stipulates that future funding increases should be allocated based on the number of performance measures that are met by institutions, including graduation and retention rates and job placement of graduates.  An amendment added on the senate floor clarified that lawmakers could not be bound by the formula when deciding annual appropriations.

Senators also amended the bill to require the measurement of job placement in a field or position associated with a student’s degree level. The requirement would not, however, apply during years in which the unemployment rate increases due to a poor economy.  The bill has an emergency clause and would go into effect upon the Governor’s signature if also approved by the House.

Senate Bill 492 is slightly different from the model announced last year by COPHE, which called for dividing up new funding. Under the COPHE plan, 66 percent would be distributed according to performance measures and 33 percent would be allocated according to an equity distribution agreement to even out funding for some institutions that have seen rapid growth.  Pearce’s bill divides up the new funding with 90 percent dedicated to performance measures and 10 percent for the equity distribution.

Budget recommendations move forward

The House Appropriations – Education committee, chaired by Representative Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe), completed its work on the FY 2015 education budgets on February 19.  This year, the committee was allowed to work with $317 million in new available funding over FY 2014, to be allocated between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Higher Education (DHE).

Within HB 2003, the higher education funding bill, the committee agreed upon a few funding increases, including $43.4 million to be distributed based on the amount of performance measures met by two- and four-year higher education institutions.  The funding amount mirrors the Governor’s recommendation for a five percent increase to public institution budgets. The committee also agreed to a $12 million increase to the Bright Flight scholarship program, which would help support the proposed Bright Flight “boost”, a loan forgiveness program for students who remain in the state after graduation. The Access Missouri scholarship program would receive a $9 million increase under the committee’s plan, and the A+ scholarship program would receive a $6.7 million increase.

The committee also added $5.2 million in one-time funding for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) grant program, to be managed by DHE.  Under the committee’s plan, the funding would be distributed in $220,000 increments to each institution for use toward stem-related programs. In addition, $1 million was included for innovation campuses, $500,000 in land grant matching funds for Lincoln University and $500,000 for the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC). Funding for the MCAC, which places recent college graduates in high schools across the state to increase college-going rates, is a priority of the University of Missouri System this year. Finally, the committee included a $483,250 increase for the State Historical Society, another University-related program.

The committee recommendations will now be submitted to House Budget committee Chair Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) for his consideration as he crafts committee substitutes for the FY 2015 budget bills. All budget bills must be truly agreed to and finally passed by May 9.

House passes two tax cut measures with party-line votes

The Missouri House of Representatives debated and passed two major tax cut proposals this week, making good on the Chamber’s promises to move quickly this session and send a more measured tax cut plan to the Governor following last year’s veto of and failed override attempt of a much larger proposal.  Representatives passed HB 1253, sponsored by Representative T.J. Berry (R-Kearney), which phases in reductions in business and corporate taxes if revenues grow from the previous year. It is estimated the bill would cost the state between $72 and $350 million when fully phased in.

House members also debated and passed a broader tax cut plan, HB1295, sponsored by Representative Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) that reduces the personal income tax from 6 to 5.3 percent by increments of .1 percent per year and increases the personal exemption allowed for those with incomes of less than $20,000.  The plan also provides deductions for business income, phased in over five years, and authorizes a corporate income tax exemption of $25,000.   Lawmakers approved a “trigger” for the income tax cuts of $150 million in average growth over the previous three years before each phase kicks in. The bill included a provision that 40 percent of the growth must be spent on K-12 education and 20 percent must be spent on higher education. The education carve-outs were added by Representative Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg).  Once fully phased in, the bill is estimated to cost the state about $700 million.

Supporters of the bills argued that the cuts are needed to help the state compete with other lower-tax states and to stimulate new job growth which will create more tax income for the state. Opponents argued that Missouri is already a low-tax state and additional cuts will not enhance competition with other states and could lead to reductions in funding for state services like education.

Both bills were perfected on February 18 and received a final house vote on February 19. The bills will now move to the senate for consideration.

Events

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Secretary of State Jason Kander speaks at the UMKC Board of Trustees’ first annual Community Engagement Awards celebration earlier this month. During the event, awards were presented to the City of Kansas City and to KC SourceLink for contributions ensuring that UMKC remains embedded in the community through innovative services, programs and projects that strengthen the region.

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On February 20, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt spoke at the State Historical Society of Missouri, which is housed in Mizzou’s Ellis Library, to honor the state’s “Monuments Men” and his “Monuments Men” bill. From left: Senator Blunt and Gary Kremer, executive director of the State Historical Society of Missouri. Photo courtesy Wally Pfeffer.

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Representative Clem Smith (D-St. Louis) visited the University of Missouri – St. Louis for Lunch with a Legislator on January 26.

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