April 11, 2014

State Issues

Senate committee completes initial review of budget

This week, the Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), signaled plans to support a five percent core increase in higher education funding for FY 2015, up from the three percent increase supported by the House.  As the committee reviewed HB 2003, the higher education budget bill, a number of items were “closed” to any additional committee changes.  The performance funding appropriation was increased to $43.3 million, which would give two- and four-year public higher education institutions a five percent core increase for FY15. In order to receive the full increase, an institution must show it has met all five performance measures. In his proposed budget, Governor Nixon also recommended a five percent increase.

While the committee plans to decide the appropriation amount for the Bright Flight scholarship program early next week, it did agree to the Governor’s recommended $8.5 million increase for the Access Missouri scholarship program. The House version added $20 million.

The House also gave community colleges a $10 million increase to address equity funding issues. The Senate decided to reduce that amount to $2 million.  The Senate also removed the $1.4 million the House added specifically to address equity issues at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Two other University-related items were added to HB 2003. Senator Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) added $500,000 for a UMKC Neighborhood Initiative program, which was also included in the House’s committee substitute, but was removed on the House floor. Senator Schaefer also added $33 million, which could be used for a new State Historical Society building if the General Assembly is unable to pass a capital improvements bill this session. Any differences in House and Senate recommendations will ultimately be decided in a joint conference committee.

As noted, a number of items were “closed” by the committee when they decided to accept the House recommendations without any changes. These items could still be modified on the Senate floor, but if not, they will not be conference items and will be sent to the Governor as currently recommended.  These include:

  • $2 million for the joint pharmacy program between UMKC and Missouri State University;
  • $10 million for the MU School of Medicine cooperative program with CoxHealth and Mercy health systems in Springfield;
  • $1.5 million in additional funding to the Telehealth program to expand access to health care in underserved areas;
  • $300,000 for international collaboration with the State of Israel, to be housed at UMSL;
  • Level funding for UM-Related items Missouri Rehabilitation Center, Missouri Kidney Program, and MOFAST; and
  • $483,250 in additional funding for the State Historical Society.

While the Governor recommended $22 million for STEM initiatives at public institutions and $19.7 million for the Caring for Missourians – Mental Health proposal, neither the House nor the Senate included this funding for FY 2015.  The budget will be debated on the Senate floor within the next two weeks and then will go to conference. Budget bills must be Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed by May 9.

Bonding resolution moves to House

On April 7, the Senate gave approval to Senate Concurrent Resolution 39, sponsored by Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar).  The resolution lists specific maintenance and repair projects across the state that could be funded should an authorizing bill, SB 723, receive legislative approval. Senator Parson is also the sponsor of SB 723, which increases the cap on the amount of revenue bonds that may be issued in order to fund renovations at state buildings across Missouri. The state’s public higher education institutions would benefit from a $200 million increase in the amount of bonds that may be issued for campus projects. Under the plan outlined in SCR 39, the University of Missouri campuses and some of its agriculture experimental stations would receive $71 million for maintenance and repair projects that have been deferred for a number of years due to lack of available funding.  Senate Bill 723 was referred to the House Budget committee on April 10 and SCR 39 is awaiting committee referral.

Governor announces FY 2014 withholdings

On April 10, Governor Jay Nixon issued a press release indicating that he will impose $22 million in expenditure restrictions for the current fiscal year. In his request for supplemental funding for the FY 2014 budget, the Governor asked the General Assembly to include $44.1 million in general revenue to make up for lower-than-expected revenues from the state lottery and riverboat gaming. While an increase of 9.3 percent in revenues over last year was expected from the lottery and 4.6 percent was expected from gaming, they have actually experienced a .2 percent and 4.7 percent decrease in revenues, respectively.

Legislators sent HB 2014, which provides additional funding in the current fiscal year to various state departments, to the Governor on April 10.  In the final version of the bill, $22 million was appropriated to make up the difference in unrealized revenues from the lottery and gaming. In his press release, the Governor indicated that he will allocate the funding shortfall by taking $3.2 million from community colleges, $3.2 million from four-year institutions, and $15.6 million from the K-12 foundation formula. While the restrictions will apply to current fiscal year funding, the Governor has asked legislators to restore the $22 million in funds in its FY 2015 budget.

Legislators prepare to take up tax cut measures

The Missouri House and Senate are both positioned to consider tax cut proposals in the coming weeks, setting the stage for an anticipated veto by the Governor and a possible opportunity for lawmakers to move to override the veto while still in session.  If lawmakers pass tax cut legislation before the end of April, the Governor is constitutionally required to act on the legislation before session ends on May 16.

On April 10, the House Ways and Means Committee gave approval to SB 509, sponsored by Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit). This bill would have a fiscal impact of approximately $620 million and would phase in business and income tax reductions over five years beginning in 2017. Revenues would have to grow by $150 million before additional cuts would be phased in.  The bill could be in position for a House vote as early as next week.

The Senate also moved a House bill out of committee this week which would provide another vehicle for a tax cut in the coming days. House Bill 1295, sponsored by Representative Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) was revised by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on April 10. The committee substitute removes provisions allowing for a personal income tax cut and only includes business tax reductions.

The Coalition for Missouri’s Future is the lead organization opposing tax cut legislation that would have a negative impact on state services, including K-12 and higher education. The Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE), which represents the state’s public four-year institutions of higher education, is among the groups that have joined the Coalition.

House Higher Education Committee passes omnibus higher education bill

On April 8, the House Higher Education Committee passed a substitute for SB 492, sponsored by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), that codifies the process of allocating future state funding to higher education.  The committee added language from HB 1389 that implements state reciprocity agreements for out of state higher education institutions providing distance education. The committee also added provisions from HB 1949 relating to teacher education programs. Committee members also agreed to include two-year institutions in the funding allocation model. The bill now moves to the House Rules Committee before being considered on the House floor.

The House companion to SB 492 is HB 1390, sponsored by Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville). It was heard before the Senate Education Committee on April 9. The committee did not take action on the bill.

Bill would provide tax credit for donations to higher education scholarships

A bill to provide higher education institutions with a dollar for dollar tax credit for private donations received to fund scholarships was heard before the House Higher Education Committee on April 8.  House Bill 2122, sponsored by Representative John Wright (D-Rocheport) would only apply to public institutions. For example, if a donor gave $100,000 to a public institution, that school could apply to the Department of Higher Education for a $100,000 transferrable tax credit which would provide the school with $200,000 in funding to use for a scholarship.  The University of Missouri System testified in support of the bill, arguing it would increase opportunities for private fundraising and help make college more affordable in a market that is seeing increased competition from other states.

UMSL Hosts Lunch with a Legislator

Stream, Conway, Hicks

Area legislators joined students and UMSL Chancellor Tom George (lower right)  for an ASUM student luncheon on campus on Friday, April 11. Elected officials included Rep. Ron Hicks (top left), Rep. Kathie Conway (center back), and Rep. Rick Stream (far right).

The University of Missouri – St. Louis chapter of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) held “Lunch with a Legislator” on April 11.  Chairman of the House Budget committee, Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) and Representatives Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles) and Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters) attended the event and discussed issues impacting higher education in the state.

Legislator Profile: Representative Genise Montecillo

LU 4-11 Montecillo

Before she was elected to the House in 2010, Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) served her community as a special education teacher in St. Louis. She was inspired to run for office by her students who had become disengaged in civic involvement because they believed their voices did not matter. Montecillo decided to show them “government could and should be different.”

Montecillo is motivated by civic responsibility and the greater good for citizens of Missouri. “Government should work for the people… I want government to work. I want to be an example of that and help restore the public’s faith in government,” Montecillo said.

Montecillo is passionate about education and education policy due to her time as a special education teacher for 24 years. Her overarching goals are to promote educational policy and to ensure the citizens of Missouri are getting improved educational outcomes.

As a member of the House Appropriations – Education committee and Budget committee, Montecillo is able to voice her concerns and opinions on the future of education. She understands the significant impact higher education has on the state of Missouri.

“Higher education drives economic development, community stability, standards of living, and overall mental wellbeing and satisfaction,” she said.

She received a bachelors degree in elementary and special education from UM – St. Louis and has a masters degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix.

As the session continues, Montecillo will continue to work towards improving education policy within the state of Missouri.

Federal Issues

Advanced manufacturing bill voted out of Senate Commerce committee

On April 10, the Senate Commerce Committee passed S. 1468 known as the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act and sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). The bill would create the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation. These hubs would be public-private partnerships between industry, universities, and federal agencies that would bridge the gap between basic research and product development and commercialization. University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe offered a letter of support for the bill.

The companion bill in the U.S. House is H.R. 2996, and has 65 cosponsors including members of the Missouri Congressional delegation. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Science’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

MU graduate students host calling-campaign to Congress on student debt

LU 4-11 GradsHaveDebt2

From left: Kaitlin Steen, ASUM Assistant Legislative Director; Hallie Thompson, GPC President-Elect; Jesse Kremenak, Founder of GradsHaveDebt2 and GPC Director of National Affairs; Matt McCune, GPC Director of State Affairs-Elect; Joseph Cobetto, Member of GPC National Affairs Committee.

On April 9, the University of Missouri (MU) Graduate Professional Council (GPC) hosted a National Call-Congress event in the MU Student Center. As a part of the national GradsHaveDebt2 campaign, graduate and professional students at MU joined fellow students from 17 universities around the nation to call federal lawmakers about staggering debt burden, interest rate inequality facing postgraduate students, and concerns about the Tax Reform Act of 2014. Nearly 50 MU graduate and professional students participated in the event and made more than 200 calls to their members of Congress. In collaboration with the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS), GPC launched the GradsHaveDebt2 campaign last summer in response to recent legislation that increases financial burdens on students pursuing advanced degrees.

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