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Mo. governor signs state budget, cuts higher education again

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has signed Missouri’s $24 billion budget into law, but he also sliced $15 million from next year’s spending plan.

Higher Education took the brunt of the cuts, nearly $9 million.  It's the third year in a row state universities have taken a hit.  Nixon says it's necessary in part because the General Assembly overestimated how much money the state would make from the Missouri Lottery.  He also criticized lawmakers for shifting $11 million from disaster relief to Higher Ed.

“The state still faces actual obligations and invoices for work already performed on recovery efforts in Joplin and around Missouri," Nixon told reporters today at a news conference in his office.  "We will meet those obligations.”

Nixon says the budget is actually $50 million dollars out of balance, but that he’s holding off on making any further cuts for now.  Budget Director Linda Luebbering says it will depend on how Missouri's economy fares in the coming months.

“We’re seeing some positive trends, the unemployment rate continues to fall, so we are hopeful that we’ll see some other things that may allow us to not have to restrict more (funding) later," Luebbering said.  "Simply put, if we need to, we’ll come back and do that when it’s evident that we need to.”

Meanwhile, House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey (R, Kansas City) calls the governor's actions mind-blowing.

“It’s political grandstanding, pure and simple," Silvey said.  "We appropriated far less than he requested, we left more in the bank at the end of the day than he did on his budget, (and) we passed the legislation he asked us to pass on veterans and early childhood education.”

The governor also used the line-item veto to eliminate $130,000 for a port project in northeastern Missouri and $80,000 for a “Blues in Schools” program .

Cuts for other items, too.

Besides the cuts to higher education, most of Nixon's reductions are to new initiatives or to existing programs that had been slotted to get funding increases. For example, he axed a new $1 million initiative aimed at employing teachers in "underprivileged" city school districts and a $100,000 pilot project intended to help lower-income working parents by more gradually easing them off subsidized child care as their incomes

Many of Nixon's cuts were for relatively small amounts when compared to the budget as a whole. For example, he withheld $10,000 appropriated to a character education program. The Missouri Eating Disorder Council, created under a 2010 law, had its initial funding cut last year by Nixon. This year, Nixon cut just half of the $75,000 lawmakers allotted for the council, which Luebbering said should provide enough money for the council to get going.

The 2013 budget year begins July First.

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Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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