Program prepares for state funding shortfall

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COLUMBIA - A number of programs are facing budget restrictions after Gov. Jay Nixon announced a $46 million shortfall in the 2016 fiscal year budget.

The cut follows a St. Louis court ruling that overturned the Master Settlement Agreement that was initially established to allocate funds from the largest tobacco and cigarette manufacturers as compensation for product harm. The state initially anticipated $50 million dollars from the program to contribute to the budget, but those funds won’t be coming in.

Departments with budget restrictions include social services, mental health and elementary and secondary education.

One program that won’t be receiving any funds this year is Bright Futures. Established out of Joplin following the tornadoes, Bright Futures is a program that provides children with resources they wouldn’t otherwise get, including clothes, shoes and educational items needed for extracurricular activities. Bright Futures has expanded to district’s across the state over the past couple years.

Paul Prevo, Vice Chair for the organization at Columbia Public Schools, said, while the CPS branch relies largely on community partners, he is upset to find that his organization won’t get the expected funding to help expand the cause.

“For small programs like Bright Futures that focuses on children, it is unfortunate that it was an unnecessary cut. However with that cut being made, my hope is that the private sector will step up and fill the gap left by the governor,” Prevo said.

Attorney General Chris Koster is planning to file an appeal of the ruling, according to a press release by Nixon.

In a public statement, the state budget director Dan Haug defended the restrictions.  

“This was a fiscally responsible and measured solution to compensate for the $50M in tobacco settlement funds that Missouri will not receive this year," he said. "As a result, Missouri’s budget will continue to remain in balance and the state’s credit rating will be protected.”