It has been the position of the House and the Senate to begin the budgeting process with a realistic and reasonable income prediction from which to build the budget. In balancing the state’s budget, as in balancing an individual family’s budget, it is important to use conservative figures in its construction. Sometimes in the political realm there is the desire to over-promise, and many in the General Assembly believe the governor’s budget does just that. He has promised (unrealistically) millions of dollars to be spent by various special interest groups to which he made commitments. Thus, in building a more realistic proposal, it is necessary for the Missouri House to look at what the income forecasters are predicting. If the General Assembly over-appropriates revenue then, in order to balance the budget, this could give the governor the opportunity to withhold funds in areas he desires and withhold from programs he does not particularly like.
Upon returning from Spring Break, our first business will be to pass the House budget and send it on to the Senate by the first week in April. This will give the Senate ample time to pass their budget and make any recommendations to the House’s version. Any differences will be worked out in conference committees. The budget must be completed, passed by both chambers and then be its way to the governor for his signature by the first Friday in May.
The House budget will again appropriate significant increases for funding Missouri education. Elementary, secondary, and higher education will all get funding increases using the bifurcated model. Under this plan, funding will be allocated using the predictions that were agreed upon by the House, the Senate, and independent economists. If revenues receipts are stronger than predicted, additional income will be set aside into a surplus fund that will be solely dedicated to education and one-time projects.
Briefly, here are some highlights of the Missouri House’s FY 2015 budget plan for increasing education spending: 1) a $122 million increase in general revenue for K-12 education, with the prospective of an additional $156 million in surplus revenue; 2) an additional $20 million for the Access Missouri Scholarship Program; 3) an approximate $7 million increase for the A+ Scholarship Program; 4) a $10 million funding increase for Missouri’s community college systems. In addition to this funding, Missouri institutions of higher education will receive a 3% increase in funding.
These increases should help all our state’s educational systems as they work hard to provide quality opportunities for Missouri students. Education is the key to America’s future success in a very competitive global marketplace. We must continue to invest in education in order to put our economy on the pathway of sustained growth and development and to insure we have a strong and highly skilled work force.