At his State of the State speech, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) proposed more funding for education in Missouri. While the idea of more funding for education is something that many Missourians can get behind, Seventh District Representative Mike Lair (R), a major player in Missouri’s education in the Legislature, is doubtful about the reality of Governor Nixon’s proposal.
Under the proposed budget from Governor Nixon, K-12 classrooms would see approximately $100 million of increased funding. Higher education and the A+ scholarship program would also see increased funding as well.
Focusing on the K-12 funding, which affects the readers of Linn County more than the other areas, the LCL and the newspapers of North Missouri pointed out in a recent “Regional View” that the state is not even finding the current Foundation Formula at 100 percent. Most of Linn County’s schools are funded at 92-93 percent of the funds they are allotted to receive. Even with this increased money, the amount funded would only come in at approximately 94 percent.
“Anything that we can do to fund education is a good thing,” said Marceline R-5 Superintendent Gabe Edgar. “We won’t make changes to our local budget until the final state budget is in place.”
“I think any additional funding for education is great, and we would be happy to see it,” said Brookfield R-3 Superintendent Dr. Paul Barger. “There always is a reason for these increases, though, and one of these is more school days. These funds would be meant to offset the increase to the district’s.”
And therein lies the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room. As we have all heard through our lives, nothing in this world is free. Both Superintendents also addressed the gap in funding that the state is putting school district’s through.
“The Formula is underfunded by $300 million,” said Dr. Barger. “We have received more money than last year, but these funds have strings attached to them. We have quite a lot on our plates that still remain unfunded.”
“Last year our level of funding was more than the year before,” said Edgar. “Still, we are going to be short of the Formula. Until we get things back to that level at least, we are still taking away from our children’s education.”
For Rep. Mike Lair, a former educator himself, the Governor’s budget is a work of “smoke-and-mirrors.”
Rep. Lair explained that the Governor’s budget is based upon the passing of four bills. None of these bills had even been introduced as of early last week, and would not be introduced at all until late last week.
Page 2 of 2 - The four Bills that Rep. Lair pointed out are:
1. Medicaid Expansion – Which Rep. Lair refers to as something the Governor is using as “blackmail” in the budget process.
2. Circuit Breaker – A tax break for elderly renters, which Rep. Lair estimated, had been defeated twice in the Legislature.
3. Streamline Sales Tax – A tax that would be applied across the board to any goods purchased online in Missouri. Rep. Lair estimated that this had been defeated at least three times in the Legislature.
4. Tax Amnesty – Rep. Lair recalled that he had seen this at least four times in his tenure in Jefferson City. The idea is that if you owe a certain amount of money in taxes after a certain amount of years, that all of the fees and penalties would be forgiven if the debt itself was settled.
“Realistically, all four Bills cannot pass,” said Rep. Lair. “It’s all smoke-and-mirrors; we don’t have the $800 million he [Nixon] is looking for. In all good conscience, I can’t do this. It won’t come out of my committee.”