State aid to Missouri’s libraries could be in danger. State House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is proposing to cut all state funding, roughly $4.5 million, in the next state budget.

He opposes the Missouri Library Association, the ACLU, and the Missouri Association of School Libraries suing the state over a Missouri law that limits what materials can be in school libraries.

“I don’t think that we should subsidize the efforts to overturn law that we pass and especially one that is so broadly supported, and in my opinion, thoughtfully crafted. I agree they are a valuable community resource and it’s unfortunate that we’re here now,” said Smith.

State Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, opposes his effort.

“The services that our libraries provide for our communities are really invaluable,” she said. “For many of our communities, it’s the only spot where folks can get access to internet. It’s the only spot where they can get access to apply for a job. And by cutting this funding, we’re literally tying the hands of one of the most important resources in our communities.”

Missouri has more than 160 state taxpayer-supported libraries.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this juncture,” said Smith. “Like I said, this body has been supportive of libraries at large continually over the last several years. We’ve increased their funding quite a bit and I think they’re valuable resources within the community.”

State Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat, challenged the Smith’s effort defund the libraries.

“We’re telling them that institutions that feel a law that we passed violates their rights and potentially the freedom of speech, they should keep their mouths shut and not dare to actually express their right to go to court and sue to challenge that law that may in fact be illegal that we passed, because get ready, we’ll strip your funding if you dare challenge us.”

The funding could be added back into the $50.5 billion state budget proposal at some point in this budget process.

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