House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet huddles with state lawmakers during budget debate

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet huddles with state lawmakers during budget debate

A proposed $105 million increase in school funding has been removed from the state budget by the House.

State lawmakers had vowed to keep funding the new public school formula, despite declining state revenue due to the recession. Revenues keep declining. Reality came crashing.

Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), chairman of the House Education Appropriations Committee, tells House colleagues during floor debate that his committee had appropriated the money needed to pay for the next step in the seven-year phase-in of the new public school funding formula. A new revenue picture emerged and Thomson says the committee had to concede the state couldn’t afford the increase.

Thomson points out schools have been getting budget increases the past few years while other state services have been getting cut.

“Education in the last two years has been very fortunate,” says Thomason. “We haven’t taken a lot of cuts when we were short of revenue.”

The House action to remove the $105 million increase would keep school funding frozen at current levels. Supporters emphasize that school districts wouldn’t suffer cuts under the proposal, but would receive the same funding as budgeted last year.

Rep. Maynard Wallace (R-Thornfield) says he’s a reluctant sponsor of the amendment.

“I think it has to be done,” Wallace tells colleagues. “The worst thing we can do, the absolutely worst thing we can do to our schools is to promise them money that they wind up not getting.”

Last week, during consideration of a supplemental budget bill, the House approved a $43 million reduction in school funding for the remainder of the budget year. State revenue hasn’t been sufficient to pay for all the expenses budgeted a year ago. The continued deterioration of state revenue prompted Governor Nixon to propose cutting an additional $500 million from next year’s budget. That proposal came as the House Budget Committee had nearly completed work on the budget bills to prepare them for floor debate, forcing budget-cutting to the House floor.

The House hopes to complete amending the budget today, which would clear the way for the House to complete this initial work on the budget tomorrow. The budget then moves to the Senate. The budget totals $23 billion. It must be approved by the legislature by May 7th.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]