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Morning headlines: Friday, December 16, 2011

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon wants Mo. universities to consider tapping into reserves to plug hole in budget

Gov. Jay Nixon wants five Missouri universities to consider tapping their reserves  and provide funding to the state's higher education system. Nixon's proposal would call for the universities to provide the state $107 million from their reserves. The state would use that money to help avoid deep funding cuts to Missouri's public colleges and universities. The state would repay the schools over seven years with money from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

Nixon's budget director calls it only a preliminary proposal. The institutions whose reserves would be tapped are the University of Missouri, Missouri State University, the University of Central Missouri, Southeast Missouri State University and Truman State University.

Some state lawmakers have expressed concerns about the proposal.

Mo. housing agency wants state to bypass new federal wages in Joplin

A Missouri Housing Development Commission recovery plan requires workers on state-subsidized projects to be paid the prevailing federal wage used on federally funded public works projects. Those wage limits increased substantially in September.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder wants the state to make an exception for construction workers in Joplin, where a May 22 tornado killed 161 people and destroyed more than 7,000 residences. Kinder says the new rate requirements will limit the state's ability to accelerate Joplin's rebuilding. His plan is opposed by building trade unions whose members would earn less money for their work.

The commission is scheduled to meet today.

McCaskill & Blunt praise passage of defense bill

Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill is claiming victory in passage of a defense bill that she says is free of earmarks. The Democrat had complained that a version previously considered by a House committee included 115 spending earmarks for projects. But McCaskill says the final version sent yesterday to President Barack Obama contains no earmarks - thanks to an amendment she sponsored.

Missouri’s Republican Senator Roy Blunt also is praising passage of the bill. He says it begins to authorize the development of a new long-range strike bomber, which he hopes will result in jobs in Missouri, which currently hosts the only B-2 bomber base. Blunt says the bill also contains an amendment he sponsored ensuring National Guard soldiers activated for domestic emergencies receive the same employment rights as soldiers returning from overseas duty.


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