Careful, Missouri lawmakers. Your pettiness is showing.
The latest version of a budget for next year makes it abundantly clear that some legislators are more interested in nursing their grievances against the University of Missouri system than in making it stronger.
As announced on Tuesday by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Flanigan, a Republican from Carthage, Mo., next year’s proposed budget would give the four-campus system about $8 million less than it is receiving this year.
But in a meddlesome twist, the General Assembly would divide its allocation into seven line items. The University of Missouri-Kansas City and campuses in St. Louis and Rolla would see flat funding from this year. But the budgets for the Columbia campus and the system administration would be cut.
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Flanigan announced that the recommended $402,059 cut for Mizzou was equal to the salary and benefit packages being paid to controversial communications professor Melissa Click; her boss in the communications department; and that person’s boss, the dean of arts and sciences.
The administrative apparatus for the four-campus system woulds receive $7.6 million less than this year — about a 50 percent cut.
And don’t forget that lawmakers have already said they would withhold $26.8 million that Gov. Jay Nixon had proposed giving the university system for meeting performance goals over the past year.
Flanigan and other House members, who are upset about the turmoil on the Columbia campus last fall, must fancy themselves as quite clever with their revenge-oriented budgeting. But their continued attacks on the university system are ultimately harmful.
The Board of Curators is starting the process of searching for a new system president. Do lawmakers think that quality candidates won’t take notice of their threat to cut the administrative budget in half?
Those dollars pay for efficiencies such as consolidated purchasing for all four campuses. Flanigan’s assertion that students wouldn’t be harmed by the cuts is baseless. If the central system is crippled with budget cuts, the campuses will have to pick up the slack and pay for services that the system now provides. The likely result would be tuition increases.
It’s actually unclear whether lawmakers even have the authority to line-item the university system’s budget. But the legislature’s leaders rarely worry about small details like legality. They are out to make a point, and their point is harming Missouri.