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Nixon cuts $301 million from Mo. state budget

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file photo: UPI/Bill Greenblatt

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri's state budget for Fiscal Year 2011 has been signed into law, but Governor Jay Nixon also announced numerous cuts to the $23.3 billion spending plan.

The governor is making "withholds," as they are called in Jefferson City. They are not technically line-item vetoes, because the money being withheld can be restored if the state's revenue picture improves.

They include $70 million from school busing, more than $54 million from college scholarships, and a projected $47 million from tax credits. The governor says slowing down the process for approving tax breaks will provide the savings.

"There (are) 62 different programs across the line, and we will be analyzing all of those, but we want to continue to be able to have the flexibility to use tax credits that can create jobs," Nixon said.

In all, there will be about $301.4 million in reductions to the state budget. However, about $20 million in federal funds will offset the total amount, bringing the impact to just over $280 million.

Still, there are deep cuts to social service and mental health programs, and 250 state jobs are being done away with. Linda Luebbering is Governor Nixon's Budget Director.

"That is on top of the about 2,200 that have already been reduced since January of 2009," Luebbering said. "I believe that there will be some layoffs, (but) we're hoping it will be minimized by the fact that we have been holding some positions open in anticipation of this."

Luebbering also expects the funding withholds will be permanent, despite a recent uptick in state revenues.

The bulk of the cut to college scholarships, $50 million, comes from Access Missouri, a needs-based scholarship program. Marianne Inman is President of Central Methodist University and chairs Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri. She says the state's neediest students will be the ones who will pay for this particular budget cut.

"I'm very concerned about that because Access (Missouri) funding currently enables thousands of students to attend the college of their choice...they would probably otherwise not be able to go to college," Inman said.

About $4.1 million is also being withheld from the Bright Flight Scholarship Program. Governor Nixon says $30 million worth of cuts to scholarships would be offset by a new scholarship program from the state's Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA).

Missouri's new fiscal year begins July first.

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