Governor’s proposed budget funds education, bridge repairs, workforce development

Gov.+Mike+Parson+speaks+with+the+Missouri+Chamber+of+Commerce+at+the+Renaissance+St.+Louis+Airport+Hotel+to+kick-off+%22Infrastructure+Week%22+on+Tuesday%2C+Oct.+16%2C+2018.+Parson%2C+along+with+other+bipartisan+members+of+Missouri+Legislature%2C+are+encouraging+voters+to+vote+yes+on+Proposition+D%2C+which+would+raise+the+fuel+tax+to+provide+revenue+to+repair+roads+and+bridges.+Photo+by+Erin+Achenbach.+

Gov. Mike Parson speaks with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel to kick-off “Infrastructure Week” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Parson, along with other bipartisan members of Missouri Legislature, are encouraging voters to vote yes on Proposition D, which would raise the fuel tax to provide revenue to repair roads and bridges. Photo by Erin Achenbach.

Gov. Mike Parson speaks with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel to kick-off “Infrastructure Week” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Parson, along with other bipartisan members of Missouri Legislature, are encouraging voters to vote yes on Proposition D, which would raise the fuel tax to provide revenue to repair roads and bridges. Photo by Erin Achenbach.

By Madison McVan
Columbia Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY — After several years in which lawmakers have targeted higher-education spending, core funding for Missouri’s colleges and universities would hold steady under Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed 2020 budget.

With his first budget since becoming governor, Parson is requesting a $61 million increase in the “foundation formula,” or per-student funding for elementary and secondary education, plus other funds, which bring the total increase to $116 million. He is also seeking a $22.2 million grant program for workforce education.

The budget proposal released Wednesday is a starting point for the Legislature, which will approve appropriations bills throughout the session to fund the state from July 1, 2019, through June 31, 2020.

If approved by the Legislature, core higher-education budgets would stay about the same as in the previous year, with the exception of an additional $2 million for each four-year institution for deferred maintenance.

Parson also recommended $1 million for the University of Missouri-Columbia’s nuclear medicine program, which university officials said represents part of the plans for a $220.8 million Translational Precision Medical Complex. UM System leaders are hoping to get $50 million to $75 million from the Legislature for the project, according to previous Missourian reporting.

When UM System spokesman Christian Basi was asked whether university officials are pleased with the governor’s recommendations, he referred to a prepared statement. In that news release, University of Missouri Board of Curators chair Jon Sundvold and UM System President Mun Choi thanked the governor and Legislature.

The suggested increase to elementary and secondary education includes $10 million for busing.

The budget also accounts for the creation of Missouri Excels, a $16.3 million program to encourage colleges and universities to create job training programs.

A Fast-Track Workforce Initiative Grant Program would cover tuition and fees for adults over 25 who make less than $80,000 per year and are working on degrees in high-demand areas.

Parson proposes spending $10 million on covering employee training for businesses of all sizes through the creation of Missouri One Start, a consolidated version of the existing Missouri Works program.

If Parson has his way, all state employees will get a 3-percent pay increase, except for those in the Missouri Department of Transportation, which has a separate pay plan. Budget Director Dave Haug also said that, additionally, more than 4,000 employees would have their salary raised to the specific market minimums.

Also, $8.2 million would go toward pay raises for employees of the Department of Corrections, paid for by moving all prisoners out of the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Cameron and redistributing corrections officers around the state.

The budget relies on a predicted revenue increase of 1.7 percent in fiscal year 2019 and 2 percent in fiscal year 2020, despite revenues being down 2.9 percent for the first half of the current fiscal year.

Haug said he expects revenues to rebound in the spring and make up for the current losses.

“We are monitoring this closely,” Haug said. “If we feel like actions need to be taken to make sure the budget is balanced, we will do that.”

The proposed budget eliminates 436 full-time jobs, but Haug said there would be no layoffs and all affected jobs are already vacant or held by people who will soon retire.

Of the $29.7 billion operating budget, about a third of the funds go toward social services like Medicaid, making it the largest expenditure in the budget.

Despite a decrease in Missouri Medicaid enrollment, Parson requested a $424 million increase in MO Healthnet funding. Haug said the additional money was needed to cover the increased cost of health care, including prescription drugs and an aging population.

In his State of the State address, Parson highlighted that he wanted to set aside $116 million for any unexpected costs that may come up throughout the fiscal year.

Just like families across Missouri, having a responsible budget is “important and a way of life,” Parson said in the speech. “For the first time in more than a decade, the governor’s budget does not plan to spend every tax dollar.”

Parson also dedicated $5 million for improvements to rural high-speed internet access and $50 million for a transportation cost-share program with localities.

The budget also calls for $351 million in bond money to fix bridges in need of critical repairs or replacements. Three bridges in Boone County would be repaired with these funds: one on Route HH over Hinkson Creek, one on Interstate 70 over Perche Creek and one on I-70 Drive Southeast over Little Cedar Creek.