Greitens releases budget recommendations, Democrats respond

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JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Eric Greitens released his proposal for Missouri's 2018 fiscal year budget on Thursday in Nixa. His Facebook page livestreamed the announcement.

Acting State Budget Director Dan Haug briefed the media on some of the top issues in the budget. 

The budget listed maintaining funding for K-12 classrooms, fighting the opioid epidemic, and protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, amongst other issues, as major programs for the 2018 fiscal year.

Greitens plan cuts $572 million and 188 state employees from the budget. 

“The fact is, in this budget, we also had to make some tough choices,” Greitens said. “We had to decide about our priorities, and this wasn’t about politics, it was just about math."

“When we took office, we discovered that politicians had promised people over $700 million that we didn’t have in the bank account," Greitens said.

Some Democrats, including House of Representatives Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City), are not happy with the cuts in the budget. Higher education funding took the largest hit in the proposal. 

"There’s a fear that, you know, the colleges are gonna be forced to raise tuition and that our students are no longer going to be able to afford tuition," McCann Beatty said. 

Rep. Kip Kendrick (D-Columbia) said his constituents will be affected by higher education funding cuts. He said the University of Missouri and Moberly Area Community College will take a significant hit. 

“The University of Missouri is facing tough budget times right now with decreases in enrollment, and they’ve seen these state cuts aren’t necessarily anything new, but I think that the size of the state cuts this year are significantly going to put University of Missouri and MACC in a difficult position moving forward,” Kendrick said.

Greitens said universities affected by higher education funding cuts will have to work to "do more with less."

“There is for example, in our budget, going to be less money for professors, colleges and universities than they expected. Now that wasn’t an easy decision. I looked at the numbers and in the last four years, higher education has gotten a total increase of over $100 million. So, I’m confident that this year, they can tighten their belts just like the rest of us and help us focus on excellence and get back to basics. And I know college administrators and university presidents can work with us to save tax payer money,” Greitens said.

Although Greitens' plan listed "maintaining funding for K-12 classrooms" as a priority, McCann Beatty said children will still be affected by the budget changes. 

"While the governor says we have not made cuts to the classroom, those dollars have to come from somewhere. We have to get the kids to school. And so I think it will ultimately, it’s going to trickle down to the classrooms,” Beatty said.

Kendrick said the next step is finding ways to restore areas of the budget that Greitens wants to cut.

“We need to do the best we can moving forward to make sure that we can stop additional tax cuts and stop special interests tax cuts that make it difficult to help out middle class families,” Kendrick said.

The budget now goes to the legislature for review.