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What the state budget means for students across Missouri

In the short time Gov. Eric Greitens has been in office, the impact of his policies on Missourians has been significant. The past few weeks — especially ­— have seen growing attention over Greitens’ proposed budget cuts affecting higher education. On Jan. 30, Greitens unveiled his “Workers First” tax cut, eliminating taxes for 97 percent of Missourians. 

In Greitens’ fiscal year 2019 proposal, funding for elementary and secondary education will increase by $87.5 million in an attempt to raise the pay of public school teachers. If the proposal is adopted, the Greitens administration will have increased funding for K-12 education by $190 million in its first two years. This is compared to Gov. Jay Nixon’s preceding governorship, funding increased by only $16 million in the same time frame. 

The proposal calls for a 7.7 percent reduction of higher education funding. 

Already, 16 student government representatives, including Missouri State Student Body President Brandon McCoy, have released a statement to the Greitens administration expressing concern over these cuts. The statement made their disappointment clear:

“Public higher education is an unparallelled economic driver for states like ours. It is not an exaggeration to say that public education paves the way to the American dream. In addition, it adds value to those who attend institutions of higher education and for those who benefit from the fruits of its labor.

“Each year, public universities train and shape the leaders and the workforce of our state’s future. It’s time to invest in them.”

Prior to Greitens’ announcement, Missouri State unveiled a plan to be more affordable for students with stipulations, including reducing the minimum hours required to graduate, lowering textbook costs and freezing housing costs. 

“There is a belief we can become more efficient and can function with less state appropriations, which is somewhat different from the previous administration,” Missouri State University President Clif Smart said. “We are looking at both reducing costs and increasing tuition and fees.

“No final decisions made yet as we work with the legislature to restore funding. We hope the increased scholarships will offset some of the tuition increases for students.”

Greitens also proposed increases in funding for the national opioid crisis, support for foster care and improving infrastructure around the state. These increases in spending occur in the wake of federal cuts used to support states. 

With the reduction in income taxes, the governor expects to balance state revenue by increasing sales tax, potentially through online sales. Greitens’ official page mentions that in 2012, Missouri lost $207 million in uncollected taxes from online sales. 

The new tax cut attempts to counter this by adding Missouri to the Streamlined Sales Tax and Use tax agreement. This would allow the state to make money from out-of-state sellers and would encourage buying from local vendors. 

The words “new funding” fill the pages of the governor’s proposed 2019 budget. Greitens’ budget also means that over the next year, most people in Missouri will have a few extra dollars in their pockets. To make that possible, areas like higher education, health and senior services will suffer, along with mental health programs, and the Department of Social Services. 

In the coming months, the Missouri House of Representatives will begin the process of passing the proposal. 

The 2019 budget will pass through multiple committees specializing in specific areas such as foster care or higher education and later sent to the senate where it can be amended. 

After the budget has been passed through legislation and signed into law by the governor, the 2019 fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2018. 

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