JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday that about $8.5 million in previously withheld funds are heading to college campuses for the current state fiscal year that runs through June.
The governor's release of the withheld appropriations came after his budget director reported that state tax collections for January 2013 were 18.4 percent higher than in January 2012.
Nixon had withheld the money after the legislature approved a higher education appropriation substantially greater than the governor, who had originally proposed a $106 million cut for the current fiscal year.
Under state law, three percent of agency appropriations are automatically withheld until the governor determines the state has sufficient revenue to cover the entire amount appropriated by the legislature. In addition, the governor can withhold more at any time he thinks revenues will be insufficient.
Nixon immediately announced an additional one percent withholding when he signed the budget bills last spring. It is that extra one percent withholding that has been released. The three percent automatically set aside remains withheld from the higher education institutions.
"I'm very pleased that the Governor released the $9 million," said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. "He essentially now has done what the legislature asked him to do last year."
Of the nearly $8.5 million in new funds, the University of Missouri system will receive nearly $4 million. Community colleges will receive nearly $1.3 million. Four-year institutions, including the UM system, are getting about $7.1 million more.
The Senate Appropriations Chair, Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he was glad Nixon released the funding. However, he called on the governor to release the entire higher education withholding given the recent increases in state tax revenues.
"I'd like to see him release everything so that those entities, for example, like the University of Missouri and all the other two-year and four-year institutions, get the funding that the General Assembly told them that they should have received for this year." Schaefer said. "As long as the governor continues to withhold they are not getting the funding that the General Assembly thought was appropriate."
A member of the Joint Committee on Education, Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, said he wishes higher education funding in Missouri could be more like it was in 2001. That year, appropriations per full-time, in-state student were $8,879, compared to $5,998 in the 2011 fiscal year. However, he said the governor's announcement is a step in the right direction.
The tax collection report by the state's budget director, Linda Luebbering, show revenue collections for the fiscal year continue to reach well above original projections.
The administration and legislative budget leaders originally had predicted a 3.9 percent growth in General Revenue for the fiscal year that ends June 30. By the end of January, seven months into the fiscal year, Luebbering reported a 9.5 percent increase. Schaefer said he hopes the governor will release withheld funds to mental health and other areas if revenues keep increasing.