The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has no plans to sit idly while lawmakers consider whether to preserve a tuition freeze deal he assembled before the state’s dire financial status was fully known.
Speaking Wednesday at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus, Nixon said the state’s public colleges and universities “should be rewarded for coming forward” last fall in a bid to stave off further cuts.
“I’ll do everything within my power — and I don’t consider that power insubstantial — to make sure we live up to that deal,” he said.
The agreement, which is subject to legislative approval, would freeze tuition at public campuses for the next academic year in exchange for no more than $50 million in cuts to state funding for higher education.
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed a $65 million cut. Nixon says he’s hopeful the lesser reduction will be restored by the full Senate or during negotiations with the House, which kept the tuition deal intact in its proposed budget.
He reiterated his call to equalize state scholarships for students at private colleges who are eligible to receive more money than their public school counterparts. Nixon has also suggested eliminating such scholarships, which would save the state $50 million.
Nixon’s campus appearance was intended as a public update on his efforts to “right-size and refocus” state government through cuts of nearly $126 million and the elimination of 1,000 state jobs announced in March. He offered similar updates Tuesday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and later Wednesday at Washington University in St. Louis.
The emergency cuts were needed to plug an expected $500 million shortfall in the 2011 budget released in January, Nixon said.
But when it came time for audience questions, the only topic was the tuition freeze.
Chancellor Brady Deaton said he’s optimistic that Nixon will deliver on his commitment to keeping tuition flat at the state’s four-year colleges and universities for a second consecutive year.
“His words today were encouraging,” Deaton said. “We know that everyone is living within the realities of the situation we’re in, but we are very hopeful.”
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, was less hopeful.
“I just don’t know if we can hold to that original promise,” he said. “We’re very reluctant to take one section of the budget, wall it off and say it’s untouchable.”
Like the Senate committee members who rejected the tuition freeze agreement Tuesday, Shields cited the state’s worsening financial outlook compared to the fiscal climate when the deal was announced a few months ago. Lawmakers face a May 7 deadline to pass a final version of the budget.
The uncertainty could complicate the four-campus University of Missouri system’s hopes to set 2010-11 tuition rates at next week’s Board of Curators meeting in Rolla.
The curators typically approve tuition and fees for the coming academic year in April. The board doesn’t meet again until June, although members can schedule special sessions if needed.
If the tuition deal falls apart, universities still would be bound by a 2007 law that limits tuition increases to the rate of inflation, with a little extra for institutions where tuition already is below average.
For the 2010-2011 school year, the tuition cap would be slightly less than 3 percent, though institutions could seek a waiver from state higher education officials to charge more.
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