Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for Feb. 25

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While February is still early in session for the budget to come up for debate in the Senate, there is already a lot of work going on behind the scenes to ensure the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 2017) budget is agreed upon and passed by the constitutional deadline of 6 p.m., on May 6. Currently, the House is working from the governor’s budget recommendations to create a balanced budget.

Some recommendations from the governor’s office include:

  • $7.9 million for critical upgrades at Missouri’s port facilities and at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia;
  • $2 million to enhance the protection of the state’s networks and information systems; and
  • $11 million to offer job training and work readiness programs for low-income individuals.

Education is an important topic for the budget, and I know it is important for most people across the state. Part of my job as a senator is to ensure students of all ages and abilities are given the best access to quality education, no matter where they are from. Currently, the recommendations call for a 3.8 percent increase in education funding for FY 2017. The legislature is actually required by the constitution to make education our top budget priority and that is part of the reason that education is always the largest appropriation from the Legislature. Rising transportation costs for rural districts have been a problem in recent years and the governor’s recommendation calls for a 5 percent increase in funding assistance for school transportation systems to $105.3 million.

It is important to note that the governor’s budget recommendations are just that – recommendations. The hard work of making necessary cuts to keep a balanced budget truly fall to the House and Senate.

One budget bill, House Bill 2003, includes a drastic proposed cut for the University of Missouri System. This legislation asks for $8,076,196 less in state aid for the University of Missouri System than in this year’s budget. Sadly, the UM System has ignored many students, parents, and legislators as part of their ongoing controversies. The Legislature has to find a way to bring the UM System into account without harming students and that may well involve budget cuts to administrators.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.