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Nixon restores money for rural extension programs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 11, 2009 - Gov. Jay Nixon may have quelled a possible mutiny from rural legislators when he announced this afternoon that he had submitted an amendment to his FY 2010 budget that adds more than $10.1 million to the appropriation for the extension programs at the University of Missouri and Lincoln University.

Nixon said in a statement that his administration had found "surplus funds remaining after the construction at the new women’s correctional facility at Chillicothe."

Nixon's initial budget proposal cut the programs by $15.4 million, touching off an uproar among rural legislators, the universities and the Farm Bureau. Extension programs are particularly popular in rural areas, where they provide support for such programs as school nutrition and 4-H. The state cut also would have prompted trims in the extension system's federal grant money, which hinged on the state aid or match.

Some legislators likened Nixon's apparent political misstep to that of his predecessor, Republican Matt Blunt, when his new administration cut the funding for the state's "First Steps'' early childhood education. That cut touched off a controversy among parents of the children helped by the program, which targeted children with disabilities.

Nixon's statement today didn't allude to any of the controversy over his initial extension cuts. Rather, the statement simply said that "the university extension programs were one of the last programs cut, so when Gov. Nixon identified these surplus finds, this was the first priority to be restored."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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