Government & Politics

Missouri House cuts funding for MU, Planned Parenthood

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House is sticking with a plan to cut about $7.6 million from the University of Missouri system budget, and on Tuesday lawmakers voted to cut an additional $1 million from the Columbia campus.

Lawmakers also amended the $27.3 billion state budget proposal to prevent state money from going to Planned Parenthood for services such as vaccinations and medical examinations. Missouri already prohibits state money from funding abortions.

The House plan to send the budget bills, which cover the fiscal year that starts July 1, to the Senate by the end of the week.

Other changes added Tuesday included more money for K-12 education, transportation projects and Lincoln University, which would receive the $1 million cut from the University of Missouri.

Lawmakers also inserted wording that would prohibit the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from implementing the federal Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s plan to slow climate change by cutting power-plant emissions.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers prevailed over the leaders of both parties on an 83-75 vote to transfer money from the University of Missouri to Lincoln University in Jefferson City. The House speaker, majority floor leader and the budget chairman along with the chamber’s top five Democrats voted against the cut.

The University of Missouri drew national attention in November after students protested what they saw as administrators’ indifference to systemic racism on campus. The turmoil culminated in the resignation of the system president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, and in February an assistant professor involved in the protests was fired.

Lawmakers have criticized administrators for how they handled student concerns and for caving to protestors’ demands.

Republican leaders have said their relationship with the university is improving, but on Tuesday some lawmakers suggested a budget cut was the only way to keep administrators engaged with the Legislature.

Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican, said the cut was meager compared to the university’s total budget.

Rep. Joshua Peters, a Democrat from St. Louis, said the cut is less than administrators spend on discretionary expenses such as stays at luxury hotels.

Columbia-area lawmakers said it was wrong to pit students against each other for funding.

Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, sponsored a successful amendment that would block state funds from going to any entity that provides nonemergency abortions or counsels women to have abortions.

Lawmakers removed more than $379,000 from the Department of Social Services’ budget, which is roughly what the state paid Planned Parenthood in the past for services such as pregnancy tests and HPV vaccinations. The state’s portion, about $55,000, was shifted to the K-12 education foundation formula, and the rest was federal money.

Democrats said that amendment was an effort to shutter Planned Parenthood.

Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Gladstone, noted that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump supports the women’s health care services Planned Parenthood provides. He said there’s no reason the Legislature needs to go to the right of Trump.

Thousands of the more than 60,000 people who get health care from Planned Parenthood in Missouri use Medicaid to cover their expenses, said M'Evie Mead, director of statewide organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri.

Planned Parenthood is still assessing how the proposed cuts would impact the organization, she said, but it would likely have a “substantial” effect on low-income patients’ ability to access health care.