Nixon cuts education funding by $22 million

Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday he has to cut $22 million in state funding to education, because Missourians are buying fewer lottery tickets and gambling less at the casinos.

“In January, when it became clear that gaming and lottery revenues dedicated to education were coming in below expectations, my supplemental budget request included $44.1 million in general revenue to make up for the shortfall,” the governor said Thursday.

In March, he said, the House passed a supplemental budget bill with “only half of my $44 million request.”

Budget Director Linda Luebbering sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee members, urging them to restore the full amount — but they didn’t, and the supplemental bill passed this week by both houses only included $22 million.

The governor told reporters Thursday “there was absolutely no reason why our students shouldn’t have gotten the resources they were promised.”

Nixon said he would cut $3.2 million each from the appropriations for community colleges and for the state’s four-year universities, and $15.6 million from the state-aid formula used to distribute money to Missouri’s public elementary and secondary schools.

“These are real cuts that will affect all Missouri students,” Nixon said.

Brent Ghan, communications director for the Missouri School Boards Association, told reporters in an emailed statement: “It is truly unfortunate the legislature failed to appropriate adequate funding to avoid a withholding this year.

“This puts school boards and superintendents in the difficult position of having to make budget adjustments in the very short time remaining before the end of the fiscal year” on June 30.

House Budget Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, told The Associated Press lawmakers only included $22 million in the supplemental budget because they thought that provided schools enough money to cover the gap.

“We thought the $22 million was an accurate number based on the information we had,” Stream said.

Since lawmakers still are working on the budget bills for the state business year that begins July 1, Nixon urged them to add the other $22 million into the 2014-15 budget, “to right this wrong, make up for this loss.”

Nixon believes the economic forecasters who predict strong economic growth will come in the next business year, but he wasn’t sure how that might affect the gambling revenues.

“An improving economy should lift gaming up as we move forward,” Luebbering told the News Tribune, in an email. “However, there appears to be a national trend of declining gaming revenue for states — this appears to be caused by both fewer people participating and more competition for the available dollars as more states move into gaming.

“So, an improving economy will make it better than it would have otherwise been. However, other factors may slow receipts down.”

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