House committee votes on budget
On March 13, the House Budget committee, chaired by Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), met to review the 13 committee versions of the FY 14 budget bills. A few changes were made to House Bill 3 , the higher education appropriations bill. In a large amendment offered by the Chair, $1 million was removed from the Bright Flight scholarship program and added to the Access Missouri scholarship program. The committee also elected to remove a small amount from each institution’s operating budget in order to create a fund for veterans attending college who may lose their tuition assistance due to the federal government sequester that took effect on March 1. The fund totals $2.5 million, $750,000 of which is from the institutional budgets. The University of Missouri’s contribution totals $350,906.
Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) and Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) teamed up on another amendment to add $700,000 for Small Business Technology Development Centers, or SBTDCs. The centers are affiliated with MU Extension and are located throughout the state.
Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) and Rep. Caleb Guernsey (R-Bethany) both offered separate amendments to add funds for Area Health Education Centers, or AHECs, which are affiliated with the MU School of Medicine. Rep. Thomson added $200,000 and Rep. Guernsey added another $300,000. Rep. Guernsey also added $1 million for the large animal veterinary program, located at MU.
The committee completed its work and passed all of the bills. The legislature began its spring break on March 14, so the budget bills are expected to be discussed by the full House the week of March 25.
Bonding resolution passes out of committee
On March 12, the House Appropriations – Infrastructure and Job Creation committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), met to discuss and finalize its version of House Joint Resolution 14 . Sponsored by Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), HJR 14 would allow voters to authorize bonding for capital projects across the state, including projects at higher education institutions.
The committee elected to increase the amount of the proposal to $1.2 billion, and they also agreed to add a revolving loan program for the purpose of funding K-12 capital projects. An amount was not specified, but creating a fund would allow school districts to apply to an administrator for a loan from the fund. In exchange, school districts would have to either reimburse the funds and administrative costs over a set period of time or repay them through an offset to the district’s foundation formula payment.
An amendment was also added to clarify that funded projects must comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The amendment also clarified that at least $500 million of the proposal amount must go to non-education-related projects.
Finally, the committee added a requirement for a 10 percent match for higher education projects. It would exempt the match requirement for projects in the state Capitol, at the Fulton State Hospital, and at state parks.
The committee then voted the resolution do pass. Its next stop will be the House Rules committee.
At the committee’s last meeting, Rep. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) distributed a draft resolution that outlined the projects that would be funded, including those in higher education. All four of UM’s Tier 1 capital projects were included in the list. The committee elected to continue reviewing this resolution and meet after their legislative spring break to finalize the list.
House leaders delegate funds to support veteran tuition assistance
Veteran students applying for tuition assistance through the National Guard have received notice that some funds may no longer be available due to the impact of sequestration on the federal budget. Students eligible for federal tuition assistance had expected to receive up to $4,500 per semester in financial support, and loss of this funding creates an obstacle that is difficult for many students to overcome. To help alleviate that concern, Rep. Charlie Davis (R-Webb City) introduced House Bill 857  this week to establish the Show Me Heroes Education Fund. Monies from this fund can be used for tuition assistance for Missouri National Guard students meeting certain requirements. The House Budget committee carved out funds from various budget lines to support this process during its markup of the budget bills this week.
MU engineering students visit with lawmakers during Engineering Week
More than 30 MU students from the College of Engineering went to Jefferson City on March 11 to visit with lawmakers in conjunction with Engineering Week activities. The students visited with several legislative offices and were introduced before the Senate and House as the day’s legislative activities began.
The students encouraged support for the operating budget as well as a bonding plan that, if approved by voters, would provide needed funds to complete the renovations and expansion of Lafferre Hall, the home of MU’s College of Engineering.
MU student leaders visit Washington for SEC in DC day
Missouri Student Association leaders participated in “SEC in DC” events in Washington, DC on March 11 and 12. To discuss the impact of federal budget issues on students’ educational experiences, the student leaders met with staff members from Missouri’s congressional delegation and other student leaders from the Southeastern Conference.