Missouri Gov. Nixon releases $1.2M for 3 programs

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon released $1.2 million for domestic violence shelters, crisis care services for children and Area Agencies on Aging on Wednesday.

Cuts to those programs were part of $172 million Nixon trimmed while approving the 2012 budget that took effect in July. A little more than a month into the current budget year, Nixon’s administration said the funding was being provided for what it called three “critical” programs because state revenues have continued to show some improvement.

The state Office of Administration reported Wednesday that state revenues increased 0.6 percent during the first month of the current budget year. Missouri’s revenue in July was $452.2 million, which is $2.9 million more than in July 2010. Individual income taxes were 9.1 percent higher than last July, but sales and use taxes and corporate income taxes were lower.

“We anticipate higher growth in future months as the economy recovers,” said Linda Luebbering, Nixon’s budget director.

Nixon released $471,000 for the state’s 10 Area Agencies on Aging, $400,000 for crisis care services for children up to 17 years old who are at risk for abuse or neglect and $356,000 for grants to more than 70 domestic violence shelters. Luebbering said the moves restore half the funding that Nixon initially had reduced from those programs. She said the three programs now will get more funding than last year because the initial cuts had reduced those programs back to what they received in the previous budget.

Missouri lawmakers this year passed a state budget that was more than $23 billion. Nixon earlier this summer announced $172 million in cuts, of which $57 million was from the state’s general revenue. The reductions also included less aid for colleges and universities, student scholarships and busing for public elementary and secondary schools. The cuts were partially intended to offset the cost for recovering from flooding and a deadly tornado in Joplin.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer said Wednesday that Nixon should release more of the funding that was cut. The Missouri Constitution allows governors to make spending cuts if state revenues fall short of the estimates upon which the state budget was based.

“I applaud the governor for releasing the money. I wish he hadn’t done it in the first place. I think he needs to release the money for education,” said Schaefer, R-Columbia. He said disaster recovery is a priority but that the governor’s budget cuts were not necessary for that.

Among the money that Nixon provided Wednesday is money that goes to domestic violence shelters for purposes such as keeping the lights on. The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence praised Nixon for providing the funding.

The organization said that for every person able to stay in a shelter last year, two were turned away — 10,708 people were served in 2010 and 19,311 were turned away. During the past several years, the number of people able to stay in shelters has remained around 10,500 people, but the number of people who had to be turned away has increased from 9,151 people in 2008.

“It is really wonderful that this funding has been restored because it’s absolutely needed,” said Emily van Schenkof, a policy specialist for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

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