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Missouri Governor Shows How Not to Balance a Budget

“In a global economy with constantly evolving technology, training and education can never stop,” Missouri governor Jay Nixon said in announcing his budget earlier this week.  Unfortunately, his proposed deep cuts to higher education will make it harder to train the skilled workforce that Missouri will need to compete in the global economy he describes.

The governor’s proposal shows why revenue increases must be on the table as states prepare their spending plans for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1 in most states.

Missouri faces one of the country’s largest budget shortfalls as a share of its budget, as our recent survey points out.  (More states likely will report shortfalls as other governors propose their budgets in the coming weeks.)  Governor Nixon proposes closing this shortfall through spending cuts alone — avoiding tax increases at the expense of educational investments that the state will need to thrive in the future.

Nixon’s proposal cuts funding for higher education by 14 percent.  These cuts come on top of the state’s large cuts in higher education funding in the past few years.

The University of Missouri system raised tuition by 5.5 percent for the current school year in response to funding cuts, and Nixon’s proposal makes additional tuition hikes next year more likely.  Nixon could have lessened the need for such drastic cuts by taking a more balanced approach to the state’s budget, one that included additional revenue.

Governor Nixon is right:  training a highly skilled workforce is critical to a state’s economic future — and the country’s.  But cutting higher education funding year after year is a step in the wrong direction.