Governor speaks at UMKC, MU; cites ways to reduce state government
Gov. Jay Nixon stopped at University of Missouri System campuses in Kansas City and Columbia this week to speak to campus and community leaders about the current state of Missouri’s economy and the need to streamline state government in light of increasing revenue shortfalls.
Nixon visited the University of Missouri-Kansas City April 6, where he outlined proposals to eliminate additional state positions, combine the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education, eliminate leased state space, and place additional restrictions on travel. UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton was on hand to introduce the governor.
Nixon also stopped in Columbia to deliver a similar message at the Reynolds Alumni Center April 7, where he was introduced by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. The governor encouraged the Legislature to support his agreement with higher education institutions to hold this year’s core cuts at 5.2 percent in exchange for no tuition increases next year for in-state undergraduates. The House supported that plan, but the Senate Appropriations Committee has agreed to deeper cuts. Nixon also announced support for legislation backed by UM to equalize the Access Missouri scholarship awards for students attending public and private institutions.
Click here  to see coverage of the governor’s visit to Columbia and a copy of his prepared remarks.
Gov. Nixon addresses a group of campus and community leaders at MU April 7. To his right are MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and State Economic Development Director David Kerr.
Gov. Nixon answers questions from reporters at the MU press conference April 7.
Legislation to reduce size of state government, redefine role of education board moving through Senate
Two bills designed to begin the process of shrinking state government and streamlining the role of the state’s education board are working their way through the Senate. SB1057 , introduced by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), would charge the Office of Administration with issuing a report to lawmakers by the end of 2010 that provides suggestions for departments that could be eliminated, reduced or combined with other programs. Department directors would be instructed to provide the office with details about efficiencies that could be made, program eliminations or reductions that could be considered, in addition to a plan for reducing expenditures by five to 25 percent. The Senate General Laws Committee heard and passed the bill April 7. It is now on the Senate calendar for debate.
Sen. Shields also introduced SJR45 , a resolution that would place a constitutional amendment to redefine the role of the state board of education on the November statewide ballot. The resolution would give the board a greater supervisory role over the entire state education system. It also calls for one board member to have a background in higher education, one in elementary and secondary education, and one in early childhood education. The number of board members would equal the number of congressional districts in the state.
Budget bills set for debate on Senate floor
The Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), voted the 13 Fiscal Year 2011 budget bills out of committee April 8. Working from the House versions, the committee made additional reductions to various departments and programs to contend with a projected $500 million gap in revenue collections. Additionally, a number of changes were made to the higher education appropriations bill, HB2003 . Final decisions about the bill will be reserved for a House and Senate conference committee.
An additional $14.8 million was proportionally cut from all two- and four-year institutions’ core budgets, reducing their appropriations to the minimum amount allowed under federal stabilization fund “maintenance of effort” rules. The Senate also removed the $2 million added by the House for the UMKC-Missouri State University joint pharmacy program. University-related programs, which include University Hospital, Missouri Rehabilitation Center, the Missouri Kidney Program, the Missouri Telehealth Network and the State Historical Society, were reduced from Gov. Nixon’s recommended levels by 10 percent. Reverting to Nixon’s recommendation means that the increases awarded by the House to certain programs will not be reflected in the Senate’s recommendation. The committee also agreed to cut funding to MOREnet by 49 percent and funding to the Missouri Institute of Mental Health by 50 percent. All of these items will be reconciled in conference committee.
Additionally, the Senate removed the House’s $7.5 million increase to the Bright Flight scholarship program and cut an additional $6.5 million from the Access Missouri scholarship program, bringing the total recommended reduction to $13 million. Finally, the committee approved Nixon’s recommendation to consolidate all state innovation centers, the Missouri Manufacturing Extension Partnership and MoFAST under the umbrella of the Missouri Technology Corporation, with a recommended $1.3 million appropriation within the economic development appropriations bill, HB2007 .
The bills will be debated by the full Senate next week.