The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Senate budget writers want to cut funding by more than half for an early childhood development program that began in Missouri a generation ago and has since spread nationwide.
The national president of the Parents as Teachers initiative said Thursday that the “shortsighted” cut could eliminate help for tens of thousands of families with young children.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also has backed funding reductions for school busing, the Access Missouri college scholarship program, life sciences research and biodiesel producers, among other things. The panel is expected to make more cuts next week.
Gov. Jay Nixon has said the $23.9 billion budget plan he outlined in January now needs to be reduced by about $500 million because of declining tax revenues and uncertain federal funding. Lawmakers have until May 7 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The plan passed earlier this month by the House was more than $200 million smaller than Nixon’s proposal but relied on a $300 million extension of federal stimulus funds that has not yet been approved by Congress.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said he wants to save that money — if it comes — for the 2012 budget and thus is seeking to make deeper reductions for next year’s spending plan. Budget analysts have warned that Missouri’s 2012 budget could be particularly troublesome because of the end of federal stimulus funds that have been used to plug shortfalls.
Senate committee members offered little dissent to Mayer’s plan to cut funding for the Parents as Teachers program to $13 million — down from the nearly $31 million that had been budgeted for the program this year. Nixon already had made a midyear spending cut to the program, and he had recommended a $3.4 million reduction for next year.
Parents as Teachers provides developmental health screenings for infants and preschoolers and sends trained workers into their homes to provide child-rearing instruction. A 1984 Missouri law championed by then-Gov. Kit Bond required all Missouri school districts to offer the Parents as Teachers program. It has since spread to all 50 states and several foreign countries.
In Missouri, the program served more than 85,000 families with children ages 0-3 and nearly 61,000 families with children ages 3-5 during the last school year, according to figures from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The Senate’s funding cut could halt services for about 69,000 families and eliminate the jobs of 1,300 school employees, said Sue Stepleton, president and CEO of the Parents and Teachers National Center in St. Louis.
“To cut these children off from this service is a really shortsighted strategy in the long-term for education success in Missouri,” Stepleton said.
A $15 million Senate committee cut in school transportation aid would build upon reductions already made by Nixon. The result is that public schools would get about $30 million less in busing aid next year than they originally were budgeted to get this year.
The Senate committee also agreed to reduce college scholarships. The panel’s $13 million budget cut to next year’s Access Missouri program would match the amount of midyear spending cuts made this year to the program.
But “since more students are coming in, the same amount of money would mean less for each student” in scholarships, said Paul Wagner, Missouri’s deputy higher education commissioner.
Another cut approved by the Senate committee would mean biodiesel producers would get just 75 percent of the state subsidies they are supposed to receive under Missouri law. The rest of the payments would be delayed until the 2013 and 2014 budget year.
The Senate panel agreed to eliminate all funding for life sciences research grants.
Senators worked with Nixon’s administration to implement a series of other cuts affecting all state departments — 10 percent reductions each for in-state travel and office supplies; 20 percent reductions each for out-of-state travel and employees’ professional development; and a 5 cent per mile reduction in mileage reimbursements that takes effect Thursday.
The Associated Press
- State News
Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri
Gov. Jay Nixon today declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to severe winter weather that began early this morning, bringing hazardous travel and the possibility of power outages.
Publicist: Andy Williams dies
According to a publicist, Emmy-winning TV host and 'Moon River' crooner Andy Williams has died.
Lions climb into share of MIAA men's basketball lead
Without taking the floor, Missouri Southern has climbed into a first-place tie in the MIAA men’s basketball race.
2.6 magnitude earthquake recorded in Oklahoma
The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded a 2.6 magnitude earthquake near Wellston in central Oklahoma.
No injuries or damage is reported.
Audit: $108,000 taken from Missouri Veterans Commission
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A former employee of the state auditor’s office embezzled nearly $108,000 while working as an accountant for the Missouri Veterans Commission, the state auditor alleged Monday.
Stacy Griffin-Lowery was fired by the Veterans Commission in March 2008 and pleaded guilty three months later to a misdemeanor theft charge. She repaid the state $17,665, the auditor’s office said.
But Missouri Auditor Susan Montee on Monday accused Griffin-Lowery of swiping an additional $90,192 by getting reimbursed for cash advances and purchases made on her personal credit card.
Race in Kansas’ 2nd District could heat up for GOP incumbent
TOPEKA, Kan. — A conservative Kansas legislator said Monday he will announce in a few weeks whether he will challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in the Republican primary.
State Sen. Dennis Pyle’s actions in recent months suggest the Hiawatha farmer, who’s served in the Legislature since 2001, is running against Jenkins in the Aug. 2 primary. He set up a campaign organization in November and has a Web site featuring a brief video of him on his farm, asking viewers for support.
Oklahoma tea party leaders, lawmakers envision militia
OKLAHOMA CITY — Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.
Tea party movement leaders say they’ve discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force
- Missouri: Senate panel cuts $500 million from proposed budget JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Senate committee declared Thursday that it has sliced more than $500 million from Missouri’s proposed budget for next year — meeting a target set by Gov. Jay Nixon to bring it in balance.
- Kansas: Wichita-area casino in doubt after governor’s decision TOPEKA, Kan. — A proposed casino south of Wichita was in doubt Thursday after Gov. Mark Parkinson refused to grant its developers a regulatory reprieve. Partners in the $225 million Chisholm Creek project wanted to delay a state board’s decision on their plans.
- Oklahoma: Groups oppose education spending initiative OKLAHOMA CITY — A coalition of business and labor groups said Thursday it will work to defeat a ballot initiative to dramatically increase spending on public education that coalition members said would devastate the budgets of many other state services and possibly force tax increases.
- More State News Headlines
- Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri