Politics Special

Missouri lawmakers may fund university buildings

Updated: 2014-02-10T05:21:57Z

By DAVID A. LIEB

The Associated Press

— Missouri lawmakers appear to agree with Gov. Jay Nixon that public colleges and universities should get more money next year. But some lawmakers want to direct part of that money toward building improvements instead of devoting it to larger operating budgets as proposed by Nixon.

Those differing opinions about how best to aid higher education could be one of several key issues facing lawmakers as they begin piecing together a spending plan during the next few weeks.

Nixon has proposed more than $120 million in new higher-education funding for the 2015 budget, about one-third of which would be distributed as a performance-based increase to the institutions’ core budgets. Other money would increase scholarship funding and expand the number of classroom slots available for certain professions, such as mental health workers.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, a St. Louis County Republican, prefers to spend more on building projects, with less of an increase for operations. He wants to take advantage of a 2012 law that authorizes the state to fund half of the cost of campus building projects that generate a 50 percent match through private donations.

The biggest application to the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education is an $11.1 million request from the University of Missouri-Columbia to help construct a 70,000-square-foot “Applied Learning Center” for the business college.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City wants $7.4 million to help build a Free Enterprise Center that could serve as the “visual gateway” from the Country Club Plaza.

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