There is a difference in what Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is proposing and what fellow Republican Jay Ashcroft, the Secretary of State, is requesting regarding library funding.
Secretary Ashcroft is requesting about $10.6 million in general revenue funding for libraries. Governor Greitens’ proposed budget recommends $5.1 million in general revenue funding.
That’s less than 50 percent of the funding requested by Ashcroft, who testifies libraries are part of education.
“If you have good education and a library, people can teach themselves anything,” Ashcroft says.
Ashcroft testified Monday before the Missouri House Budget Committee in Jefferson City.
He says cutting library funding would be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
“We have over 360 public libraries that have trained individuals, they’re there after 4:30 in the afternoon,” Ashcroft testifies. “They’re open at night, they’re open on weekends, they have meeting facilities. They have broadband.”
Ashcroft says 91 percent of Missourians have access to taxpayer-supported libraries.
The Missouri Constitution authorizes the state to support and aid public libraries.
Ashcroft testified for about two hours before the Budget Committee, and also answered questions on numerous other issues.
Governor Greitens’ proposed budget includes $54,000 to raise public awareness of the Wolfner Library for the Blind in Jefferson City.
Ashcroft supports that request, noting the Wolfner Library is a free service for Missourians who are unable to use standard print materials because of a visual or physical disability.
“This is out of the Wolfner trust fund, it is not general revenue,” says Ashcroft. “We believe that there is a large population of individuals that can be using the services of the library, but they don’t know about it.”
The Wolfner Library for the Blind provides Braille, large print books, audio books and playback equipment for eligible Missourians who are blind or have visual impairments, physical disabilities or learning disabilities.
The Secretary of State’s website says more than 11,000 Missourians currently actively use the Wolfner Library, which is housed at the Kirkpatrick State Information Center a few blocks from the State Capitol.
It is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ashcroft also addressed initiative petitions, newspaper advertising and election costs on Monday.
He testifies there’s been a 500 percent increase in petition filings since 2008, while the total number of petitioners only increased by 12.
In 2008, Ashcroft notes 55 petitions were filed by 16 petitioners. Three made it to the ballot.
In 2016, 223 petitions were filed by 28 petitioners, and four made it to the ballot.
350 petitions have already been filed for 2018, and more could be filed with a May deadline.
Greitens’ proposed budget includes $6 million for Ashcroft’s office to publish the full texts of any statewide ballot measures in local newspapers throughout Missouri.
Ashcroft tells lawmakers current law requires the office to publish ballot measures in newspapers, and notes some cities and towns have two newspapers.
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, notes Missouri has four special elections in legislative races on Tuesday.
State Rep. DaRon McGee, D-Kansas City, tells Ashcroft he’s heard complaints from Kansas City election officials about the length of time it takes the state to pay for costs.
Ashcroft, who took office in January 2017, tells Representative McGee that the state has sometimes taken a year to reimburse local authorities for election costs.
“A real problem,” Ashcroft testifies.
And the issue of photo ID also came up during the hearing.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, tells Ashcroft he’s worried people are being disenfranchised with photo ID.
Ashcroft disagrees, telling Merideth and the committee that if you are registered to vote you can vote.