Missouri budget compromise includes increases for schools

03/06/2014 7:48 AM

03/06/2014 7:50 AM

Republican lawmakers appeared to offer a compromise solution Wednesday in their logjam with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon over state revenue and education spending.

Rep. Rick Stream, the House budget committee chairman, proposed increasing K-12 public school funding at Nixon’s recommended amount of $278 million for fiscal year 2015 — but only if Nixon’s revenue estimate proves true.

For the budget year beginning July 1, Nixon is counting on 5.2 percent growth in general revenue. House and Senate budget leaders, however, project growth at 4.2 percent. Stream, R-Kirkwood, previously said he would move forward with the Legislature’s estimate.

But on Wednesday, Stream said he wanted to establish a surplus revenue fund to funnel money into education if revenue grows more than the 4.2 percent predicted by the Legislature.

“If the governor is right, the money coming in can be spent (with this fund),” Stream said.

This type of fund has never been established before and could be used in future budget years if the measure becomes law. Four entities would receive money through this fund, including the Foundation Formula and capital projects at some higher education institutions.

It isn’t clear if Nixon approves of the idea. Asked to respond to Stream’s appropriations bills, Nixon’s spokesman, Scott Holste, said on behalf of the governor: “Missourians want good schools and good jobs, and the General Assembly’s budget should reflect those priorities.”

Stream proposed $122 million in general revenue to increase the Foundation Formula, which funds K-12 public schools. Should Nixon’s revenue estimate be correct, an additional $156 million from the surplus revenue fund would be given to K-12 education.

This additional money probably would not come through until the end of fiscal year 2015, he added.

Other funding increases proposed by Stream include:

• $8.2 million more for the Missouri Preschool Program in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts. Nixon recommended $20 million more for the program.

• $25 million more for K-12 transportation funding, compared with Nixon’s proposed $15 million increase.

• $1 million more for both Parents as Teachers and Teach for America. Nixon recommended a $1 million increase for the Parents as Teachers program.

• $6.7 million more to fully fund the A+ Scholarship Program. Nixon recommended the same amount.

• $20 million more for the financial needs-based Access Missouri. The governor recommended an $8.6 million increase.

• A 2 percent increase in core funding for both four-year and two-year institutions, as opposed to Nixon’s recommendation of an average of 5 percent for four-year institutions and an average of 4 percent for two-year institutions.

• A 1 percent cost-of-living pay raise for state employees, compared with Nixon’s recommended 3 percent.

• $5 million increase in tourism, compared with Nixon’s proposed $10 million.

Stream’s proposal also would expand the Bright Flight Scholarship Program, adding a forgivable loan program for students scoring in the top 5 percent of the ACT and SAT. If a student stayed in Missouri to work after graduating, their loans could be forgiven.

Stream also called for a 1 percent cut in state employees across the board.

In addition, Stream proposed $4 million for Kansas City should it be picked to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

A hearing on the appropriations bills will be held today. Stream said his goal was to get the bills to the House floor for debate the week after legislative spring break, March 13-24.

“I think these (increases) are fair across the board,” Stream said.

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