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Crowell: Stalling budget wasn't due to vendetta against SEMO

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jason Crowell
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Sen. Jason Crowell wasn't acting out of malice, he said Thursday. When the Cape Girardeau Republican tried to block Southeast Missouri State University from getting an extra $2 million this week, he said he was acting on principle.

As Crowell's filibustering threatened to cause the state's $24 billion budget to miss today's constitutionally mandated deadline, some speculated that Crowell was being motivated by a long-standing grudge against university president Ken Dobbins. But Crowell was adamant Thursday that nothing could be further from the truth.

"Ken Dobbins is as irrelevant in my world as I am in his world," Crowell said. "It had nothing to do with anything personal. I have principled positions."

So Crowell was pleased with the compromise plan that will spread $3 million among seven state universities, with the largest share -- $885,969 -- going to Southeast. The boost will raise the total Southeast state appropriation for fiscal 2013 to roughly $43.7 million, which is up from the current year's $43.5 million, according to the state's Office of Administration.

Crowell doesn't deny that he's had disagreements with the way Southeast has handled certain situations, such as the way it issued bonds for its River Campus without having a revenue stream to repay them. But those disagreements had nothing to do with this, Crowell said, repeatedly calling his decision to block the $2 million earmark, proposed by House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, a matter of principle.

Crowell noted that many college students from his 25th District choose to go to universities other than Southeast. It is also important to remember, Crowell said, that Southeast did not ask for the money and had no real plan for how to spend it. He also disputed Tilley's notion that the $2 million would address a disparity in state funding on a per-student rate, although Southeast was ranked second-to-last in state appropriations in that category.

Heaping more taxpayer dollars into Southeast doesn't help the other universities where many of his constituents end up opting to go, Crowell said. So the compromise plan that ultimately passed, he said, "is an actual addressing of the issue that Steven [Tilley] said he was addressing, which is equitable funding."

Not to mention, Crowell said, that taxpayers are sick of earmarks. The U.S. Congress, for example, has banned them.

Tilley did not return phone calls to his capitol office Thursday seeking comment.

Crowell also levied criticisms of the bipartisan group of Southeast Missouri legislators who issued "unwavering support" earlier this week for Southeast receiving the extra $2 million, including Reps. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, Billy Pat Wright, R-Dexter, and Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie.

Crowell especially took umbrage against those who supported the $2 million earmark while voting earlier in the session to cut a health program for blind Missourians.

"Shame on them," Crowell said. "They were saying $2 million for SEMO is more important to them than finding a way to fund health care for the blind. ... I'm a fiscal conservative and I would rather take care of blind people than give SEMO a bridge to nowhere."

Several, including Wallingford, Lichtenegger and Hodges, defended their decisions, saying that Southeast has been underfunded for years. Those three also conceded that the final outcome was a good compromise, in light of all the bickering.

"I'm sure [Crowell's] not pleased with the way I went," Wallingford said. "But you're not going to please everybody. That's just part of the process."

Both Wallingford and Lichtenegger called their decision in March to cut the health care funds for the blind a difficult one, though the money was eventually partially restored this week. Wallingford pointed out that many tough decisions were made in light of the state's $500 million budget shortfall. If the group had never received the money in the past, Wallingford said, he would not have voted for the program to begin this year because the funds weren't there.

Lichtenegger said she voted to cut the program because it targets only one group with a disability. She has no problem funding programs geared to the blind, but wondered where similar programs were for others with disabilities, such as those with hearing impairments.

As to Crowell's "shame on them" admonition, Lichtenegger said she doesn't question Crowell's principles and he shouldn't question hers.

"I would never venture to say he did anything wrong," Lichtenegger said. "But he cannot make a blanket statement that the five of us supported this and how bad we are. We were supporting the university that sits in the middle of our voting district. We did what we thought was right, just as he did."

Hodges, who did not vote to cut the program for the blind, said that Crowell is "out of pocket" with the sensibilities of those in his district. Hodges also said he did not understand how a legislator could lobby against funds coming into his own district.

"If you want to be neutral, then don't do anything," Hodges said. "But to take efforts against them? That takes some review. It's like if I said East Prairie is a bad place to live. ... I will tell you, his reputation, the image he projects up there, it's not beneficial to him."

The process was divisive at times, with Tilley calling Crowell a "child" who would do anything to get what he wants, even if it meant causing the state to miss its constitutionally mandated deadline to complete a budget. Crowell suggested that Tilley was giving Southeast the $2 million to secure a lobbying job later.

But Crowell said it was never personal to him. He was simply working to accomplish goals he believed in.

"That's totally what this was all about," Crowell said. "You can put whatever you want about what you think my motives are. That's what was in my heart and that's what I've been doing. It's been consistent all session long."



Pertinent address:

201 W. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, MO

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This has been the whole problem all along with our elected leaders is the earmark issues. This is part of the reason we are in the financial shape were currently in. Washington and Jefferson City have to understand just because somebody brings up "oh we have 2 millions dollars" we can slide to a certain school or local public body when they don't need it is unacceptable in my opinion, this type of business has been going on for years and it must stop. Take a very strong look at this 16 trillion dollar debt we have which very few are making an attempt at all to start bringing down, most of that was accumilated over the years through earmarks attached to these bills kind of like the "bridge that leads to know where", but one certain politican just had to attach an earmark to make himself look good before the people that elected him in his State. I commend Senator Crowell for taking a stand on this issue and also I commend the Debt Commission and Congressman Paul Ryan at least they are making an attempt to stop this fooliness that has been going on, but the people must listen to them and face reality that we are heading directly in to a complete finanical collaspe if we don't stop this borrowing and spending in the very near future.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Thu, May 10, 2012, at 6:45 PM

Swamp, so you salute Crowell? The danged money was spent anyway and went to other schools. What's your point? For Crowell to say there was no vendetta is, well, a stretch of the truth. We elect people to protect and support our districts. All he did was "compromise." Not much of a compromise in my opinion. The salute goes to our other legislators.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 12:11 AM

So Crowell's childish hissy fit turns a $2 million earmark into a $3 million earmark, and then he claims fiscal conservativism? Crowell, simply put, isn't as smart as he thinks he is.

-- Posted by gomer on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 12:42 AM

Maybe it's not that Southeast is under funded but that all the others are over funded. It's high time the people of this great nation understand that it's not that we don't pay enough taxes, we spend way too much money.

-- Posted by semofan23 on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 6:17 AM

we get what we deserve.

-- Posted by sledgehammer on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 8:06 AM

University of Central Missouri: $580,377

Do you mean University of Missouri-Columbia?

-- Posted by jacksonresident1 on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 8:07 AM

When SEMO and Dobbins start learning how to use money for thinsg that matter instead of fountains and other petty things while not using it for much needed repairs or to fix the parking and other problems on campus they shouldn't recieve a dime. They will never get a dime from me, they don't know how to use the budget they have now.

-- Posted by abcd on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 9:14 AM

Crowell is fooling no one with his reason of having "principled positions" for fighting the additional revenue going to SEMO. He is simply using his position of political power to send Dobbins the message "gotcha" one more time, because of the "long-standing grudge". Now the ball is in Dobbin's court to fire his shot back. Folks, this is just politics 101 - been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It's just the nature of the game.

-- Posted by 1happypappy on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 9:58 AM


You said it all.

-- Posted by Username1 on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 10:01 AM

Crowell did his usual cronie politics. He's not done much to prove himself much more than that. Wonder what republican will run against him next time. He's only good at making enemies and that isn't what he was sent there to do. He was sent there to represent his districts best interests....not their worst.

-- Posted by Mudflopper on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 10:57 AM

Who do you believe.

-- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 11:51 AM

Leveler who is going to pay the one million dollars that you say the Senator cost you have you ever thought of that, I doubt it. The time for the reckless borrowing and spending needs to stop, were broke plain and simple.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 4:34 PM

The money should go into funding for the blind. Of course, no matter where it goes, it's the same difference.

-- Posted by kskltn on Fri, May 11, 2012, at 7:20 PM

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$3 million compromise
Missouri budget negotiators have agreed to split an extra $3 million among seven universities.

The breakdown is:

* Southeast Missouri State University: $885,969

* University of Central Missouri: $580,377

* Missouri Western State University: $516,559

* Northwest Missouri State University: $515,476

* Missouri Southern State University: $346,521

* Truman State University: $105,435

* Lincoln University: $49,663

SOURCE: Missouri Office of Administration

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