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Nixon reverses $8.5M in cuts to higher education

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gov. Jay Nixon
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Jay Nixon reversed an $8.5 million funding cut to Missouri public colleges and universities on Monday while citing improved state tax revenue.

The funding for higher education institutions, which amounts to about 1 percent of their state allotments, had been blocked by Nixon since the state budget took effect last summer. But Nixon released the money as his administration reported Monday that state revenue was up 9.5 percent almost two-thirds of the way through the fiscal year, compared to the same point the previous year.

The announcement means $43,039 for Three Rivers College, $48,456 for Mineral Area College and $428,861 for Southeast Missouri State University. Southeast's amount is the fourth-highest, behind the University of Missouri, University of Central Missouri and Missouri State University.

Nixon also released several hundred thousand dollars that he had previously blocked from being spent on foster care programs, child-care subsidies and the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The Democratic governor had placed spending restrictions on about $15 million of items in the state's $24 billion operating budget when he signed it last June. At the time, he cited concerns about whether the Missouri Lottery would generate enough new money to meet the budget expectations and the continued need to set aside money to pay for expenses from the deadly 2011 Joplin tornado and other natural disasters.

Even with Monday's decision, Nixon still has a block on nearly $6 million of budgeted expenditures, including several programs for K-12 schools and various social services. He said funding decisions for those programs could depend on state revenue during the next 15 to 30 days.

"These are good numbers, don't get me wrong, but we want to make sure that they will continue to push on through the rest of the fiscal year," Nixon said at a news conference in his Capitol office.

Figures from the state Office of Administration show net general collections totaled $4.54 billion from July through January, compared to $4.15 billion during the same period last year -- a $395 million increase over the previous fiscal year.

Collections from individual income taxes were up 6.1 percent compared with last year, which Nixon's budget director, Linda Luebbering, described as a "very, very positive" sign for state finances. State sales and use tax collections were up 2.4 percent. Tax refunds were down 28.5 percent, partly because the federal government was delayed in posting its tax guidance because of the so-called "fiscal cliff" stalemate that was not resolved in Congress until the start of January.

During his news conference Monday, Nixon also announced that he wants to restructure several state agencies. Nixon issued executive orders to move:

* The Center for Emergency Response and Terrorism from the Department of Health and Senior Services to the Department of Public Safety.

* The Division of Energy from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Economic Development.

* The oversight duties ensuring tax credit recipients comply with state laws and regulations from the Department of Economic Development to the Department of Revenue.

All the department changes would take effect Aug. 28, unless the Legislature rejects them within 60 days of receiving the notification from Nixon.

Nixon said the restructuring is not expected to save any money but would better align duties with the existing responsibilities of state agencies.

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