Nixon announces $22 million in education budget cuts at press conference

Blames Legislature, decline in gambling

By Chris Mathews

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon announced $22 million in education budget cuts during a press conference on Thursday, blaming the Legislature and a decline in Missouri gambling.

The General Assembly failed to make up for shortfalls in lottery and gaming revenues, and decided to only include half of the governor’s suggested $44.1 million in the 2014 supplemental budget, according to the governor. The shortfall arises because Missourians are gambling less, so there is less gambling tax revenue going to education.

“Unfortunately, despite our clear and repeated warnings about the consequences, the General Assembly has once again failed to make funding for education a priority,” Nixon said during the press conference in his Capitol office.

Since only half of the governor’s suggested $44 million was included in the budget, he plans to make the following cuts in education spending: $3.2 million from the state’s community colleges, $3.2 million from four-year institutions and $15.6 million from the K-12 foundation formula.

Relatively speaking, the $22 million cut is not a lot of money. It accounts for less than 1 percent of the overall education budget.

The House budget chairman, Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, expressed surprise over Nixon’s discontent, citing that the governor had not once personally approached him about the issue. However, he did mention that he and State Budget Director Linda Luebbering had been in close contact. Stream also said that restoring the $22 million would cut funding for next year’s budget.

“If we took another $22 million and put it into this year’s funding, we would have to take that $22 million out of the general revenue that we’ve applied to the fiscal year 2015 budget,” Stream said.

Nixon originally projected 2.8-percent growth in this fiscal year compared to last year, but his administration reported last week that net general revenue collections have only increased by 1.7 percent in the past nine months.

“The revenue is not coming in the way we projected it at this point in time,” Stream said. “Now, it could go up tomorrow and for the rest of the fiscal year. But right now, the revenues are not coming in, compared to last year, anywhere near the governor’s 2.8-percent projection.”