Why is the general revenue line on appropriations to colleges and universities so important to watch?
Simple. That is where lawmakers and the governor have the most discretion.
The Missouri Lottery money hovers every year around the 7-9 percent range of institutions’ total funding. And the Escrow Fund line item is determined by statute.
But general revenue is the General Assembly’s checking account. Each year, lawmakers have to set funding priorities based on projected revenues from sources like taxes and fees of all kinds. This year, House Republicans said they are drawing a line in the sand on cuts to higher education.
They have rejected the governor’s $68 million in cuts (after the restoration of $40 million from a mortgage fraud settlement) to higher ed. But will the governor go along?
The Watch heard from someone close to the Senate that there is a “better than good” chance that the bill will get through the Senate Appropriations Committee with only minor changes. Nixon has said the cutting of $28 million from a program providing health services to more than 2,800 blind Missourians to help restore higher ed funding in unacceptable.
Nixon could veto the bill. Or he could utilize a line-item veto to realize further cuts to offset the $68 million in his proposed cuts that the Legislature rejected. This would be tough to do and would be high-risk politically.
“The governor may object to one or more items or portions of items of appropriation of money in any bill presented to him, while approving other portions of the bill” except the governor may not reduce appropriations for public schools or payment of principal and interest on public debt.
Or he could withhold appropriations from schools if revenues don’t meet their targets.
Article IV, Section 27, Missouri Constitution, grants the Governor the power to reduce the expenditures below appropriated amounts (withhold) when actual revenues are less than the revenue estimates upon which the appropriations were based.
Like we’ve been saying, pay attention, because your job may depend on it. Now get back to watching spelling bee videos on the Globe website.