Missouri Senate passes budget that restores higher ed funding

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate passed a new budget Tuesday that restores cuts to higher education and fully funds K-12 education.

Gov. Mike Parson announced cuts to higher education in April due to financial stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senators voted 26 to 5 in favor of a higher education spending plan that would give public colleges and universities the same funding next year that they were originally promised this year. 

Under the state house approved budget, higher ed would get 10% less in state funding during the next fiscal year. That begins on July 1. 

Senators are trying to avoid those cuts with the help of federal aid.

Since the house and senate did not agree on funding levels for colleges and universities, negotiators from both chambers will need to hash out the difference before Friday. 

Lawmakers had to find approximately $700 million to cut from the state's budget.

Senate majority leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, spoke to KOMU 8 News Tuesday night about the senate's budget decisions. 

He said restoring the funds to higher education and fully funding K-12 are important investments to make during and after a global pandemic.

"My goal has always been and certainly today was to pass a budget that's reflective of the values of the people that we represent," Sen. Rowden said.

He also said there are still steps to take before this budget becomes reality.

"Part of it is contingent on federal dollars," he said. "It's my hope that those things pan out." 

Sen. Rowden said the restored funds also include the state funding for Mizzou's NextGen Precision Health Institute.

"Just what is happening could happen inside that institute as far as cures for cancer and heart disease, but also potentially something for the next COVID-19," Sen. Rowden said. "So, that's why we thought that was a good investment."

He said budgets are about priorities and nobody gets everything that they want, but he said education is a priority no matter what side of the aisle you're on.