FY 2014 budget moves to the Senate
The House of Representatives completed its initial work on the state’s FY 14 budget this week and sent the bills to the Senate. While a few modifications were made to certain bills during floor debate, no changes were recommended for the higher education funding bill, House Bill 3. Several attempts were made to add federal funds for Medicaid expansion, but the efforts were defeated. Hearings in the Senate could begin next week.
Bonding proposal advances
The House Budget committee, chaired by Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), heard House Joint Resolution 14, the bonding proposal for higher education construction and capital improvements, on March 27. A good deal of discussion occurred about when the resolution would go on the ballot and the procedure for determining the projects eligible for funding, if the proposal is approved by the voters. The co-sponsor, Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), indicated his preference for the November 2013 ballot if the resolution is approved by the legislature. The committee did not recommend any changes to HJR 14 and plans to vote on the resolution next week. The University of Missouri System has top priority projects for each campus included in the resolution.
In related news, the House Appropriations – Infrastructure and Job Creation committee, chaired by Rep. Kelly, also met this week to discuss a draft resolution circulated by Rep. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) that would outline specific uses and capital projects to be funded by the bonding proposal. Rep. Kelly appointed a subcommittee to discuss and finalize a recommendation for the committee to consider at a hearing posted for April 4.
For additional details about UM’s capital priorities, click here.
Senate committee hears bill creating funding formula for higher education
After several months of hearings and discussion, legislation to create a funding formula for higher education institutions was presented to the Senate Education Committee on March 27. Sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), Senate Bill 437 creates a new funding model that considers certain criteria in determining higher education institutions’ state appropriations, including credit hours completed, varying costs per credit hour depending on the level and type of course, and cost compared to peer institutions and peer states. The model also incorporates a set of performance measures which would apply to an institution’s core funding level.
Last year, lawmakers passed legislation giving the Joint Committee on Education the task of developing this funding formula. To gather input from groups affected by their proposal, the committee held hearings across the state in the fall and spring. The University of Missouri System provided input on several aspects of the bill but continues to have concerns about certain details of the formula in the version of the bill presented to the committee this week.
No institutions testified in support of the bill. The Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE), representing all of Missouri’s four-year public institutions including the UM System and its campuses, testified for informational purposes. In its testimony, COPHE raised concerns about how weights were developed using data from peer states, how weights for professional level courses in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine were calculated, how Pell Grant-eligible weights were assigned, and the use of the performance funding method for core funding instead of new funding as was intended by the institutions when the original performance model was designed.
The committee took no action on the bill.
Missouri College Advising Corps gives report to House, Senate education committees
Students, counselors, and staff associated with the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC) gave a report to the House Higher Education Committee and members of several other education-related committees during an informational hearing on March 26 at the State Capitol. Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, who serves as executive director of the program, introduced MCAC, which places recent college graduates as peer counselors in Missouri high schools with low rates of college attendance. Many high school students choose to attend college at two- or four-year institutions or vocational-technical institutions as a result of MCAC’s influence.
Funded privately and by grants, the program has achieved significant increases in high school students’ rate of college attendance since it was founded at MU four years ago. The peer counselors are stationed full time in high schools across the state, and they develop strong relationships with students and their parents. This aids families who many not have college experience in the process of applying for admission and financial aid.
For more information, please see the MCAC website.
Federal spending authorized through September 30 by Congress and President Obama, Sequester remains in place
President Barack Obama signed a federal spending package, HR 933, into law on March 26. The bill was approved by the US Senate and House of Representatives by votes of 73-26 and 318-109, respectively. It authorized spending levels for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, which ends on September 30. The resolution also included five full-year budget bills for the departments of Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Homeland Security. All government operations not covered by the five full-year budget bills are funded at the same rate as the previous fiscal year, with adjustments to a few specific programs. The bill left the sequester in place, requiring $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts to occur. The cuts will be split equally between defense and non-defense programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
Also included in the bill was a provision overturning a decision by several military branches that would have eliminated tuition assistance programs for veterans for the rest of the current fiscal year. Language was also included to allow the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct political science research only if the NSF Director certifies that any such research demonstrates value to national security or economic benefit. The Director is required to publish an explanation for each certification on the NSF’s website, and any funds not used for political science research may be used for “other scientific research and studies that do not duplicate those being funded by other agencies.”
The bill increased funding to the NSF by $221 million for the rest of the current fiscal year, raising the agency’s budget to just under $7.3 billion. However, after cuts due to sequestration, NSF’s agency budget will be about $6.9 billion. Funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) was also increased, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has indicated that its post-sequester budget will contain a $10 million increase as compared to its appropriation in the previous fiscal year. Lastly, appropriations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) increased by $71 million from levels in the previous fiscal year, but sequestration will force $1.6 billion in cuts from the NIH budget for the current fiscal year.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler tours MU Research Reactor
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) visited the MU Research Reactor (MURR) on March 26. The tour included the nuclear reactor, research labs, and training facilities. MURR Director Ralph Butler and Dr. David Robertson, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of Research and Education of MURR, led the tour for the Congresswoman and a few members of her staff.
MURR Director Ralph Butler (left), Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) (center), and Dr. David Robertson, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of Research & Education at MURR (right).