Senate considers $15 million less for schools than House

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Senators spent hours Tuesday debating an education budget proposal that would provide $15 million less in funding growth for local school districts than the House of Representatives approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Senate proposal would earmark $2.74 billion for direct aid to local schools, which would be $130 million more than schools are slated to receive for the current fiscal year ending June 30.

Despite the relatively minor difference in the plans, Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, tied up the chamber well into the evening with unsuccessful attempts to close the gap.

The amount allocated for local schools is part of the overall $4.75 billion budget for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Senate's recommendation for DESE is about $1 million higher than the House approved and $203 million more than currently appropriated.

The Senate versions of the 12 bills that make up the state operating budget call for almost $18.83 billion in total state spending -- a nearly $1 billion, or 5.6 percent, increase from the current budget.

The plan before the Senate would cost $186 million more than the House proposal.

The Senate committee had reversed much of the savings House Republicans hoped to achieve by slowing the rate of growth in Medicaid and added $114.4 million for the Department of Social Services, among other changes.

State Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon and the chamber's budget chairman, said revenue collections look to improve and should be sufficient to cover the additional spending.

Once the Senate approves the bills, which is expected later this week, the two chambers will have to work out the differences in their proposals before the measures can win final passage. The budget bills must be sent to the governor no later than May 14.

For the Department of Higher Education, the Senate plan suggests $20 million more than the House for a total appropriations of nearly $1.1 billion. The House proposal calls for virtually no growth in higher education spending.

Southeast Missouri State University's share would be $43.9 million, about $1 million more than its existing appropriation but $1.4 million less than Gov. Bob Holden requested.

The appropriations bills are HB 1001 through HB 1012.

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