Governor Jay Nixon (D) wants to give the state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities a tuition increase, but some Republican legislative budget makers are skeptical.
Nixon proposed on Monday a $55.7-million dollar increase for higher education in the state budget that would begin July 1, 2016. That would push performance based state higher education funding to nearly $1-billion dollars. The presidents of those colleges and universities say they would for the fourth time since Nixon became governor, not implement a year-to-year increase in tuition.
“This tuition freeze is good for students, families, and our economy as a whole,” Nixon said in a statement. “Because the less debt students take on when they’re in school, the more they can spend when they graduate – buying a car, starting a business, and pursuing their dreams.”
House Budget Committee vice-chairman Scott Fitzpatrick says such an announcement could be premature.
“It’s really early in [Fiscal Year 2016]. We’re not even through a full quarter to see where revenues are. The information that we have, as of today, doesn’t look that great,” said Fitzpatrick.
Nixon will include the proposal, which would be a 6-percent increase over the amount for higher education in the current budget, in his proposal Fiscal Year 2017 budget that he presents to the state legislature in January. The legislature will take that budget and propose changes to it.
There, Fitzpatrick said, it will go up against other budget priorities.
“Higher education has always been one of the items that has kind of been on a chopping block because in reality it’s one of the largest items in the budget that’s not an entitlement,” said Fitzpatrick.
He said two of its biggest challengers for a major increase would be Medicaid and K-12 education.
“K-12 education is an entitlement. Schools don’t have the ability to charge parents of students for their attendance at those schools. Medicaid is an entitlement. If [patients] are eligible under state law for Medicaid the services get rendered and the state has to pay for them,” said Fitzpatrick.
Also still to come, he said, is the mid-year budget that the governor and legislature use to take up various expenses that arise during the course of a fiscal year.
“Historically we’ve had pretty large supplemental requests for Medicaid and it’s a pretty basic thing to understand that any money we spend in supplemental is money that we don’t have available to spend in the next fiscal year’s budget,” said Fitzpatrick.