Missouri Gov. Prioritizes Tax Cuts Over Funding Higher Education

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Gov. Eric Greitens is looking to cut taxes for "97 percent of Missourians" while slashing higher ed by over 10 percent.

Perhaps taking a cue from Republicans in Congress, Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri is proposing tax cuts accompanied by budget cuts this year, and the state's higher education system would take one of the biggest hits.

While neither the tax plan nor budget proposal enjoys wide support, Greitens continues to push these proposals forward. Republicans currently hold control of both the House and Senate.

Greitens said his proposal is "a bold plan" that will "reduce taxes on 97 percent of Missourians":

Among other things, the plan cuts the state’s income tax to 5.3 percent. It also reduces Missouri’s corporate income tax from 6.25 percent to 4.25 percent and establishes an earned income tax credit.

But Missouri legislators have cut income and business taxes numerous times over the past two decades, and some believe another round will put the state over the edge - like the neighboring state of Kansas:

Kansas’ tax cuts blew such a big hole in the state’s budget that lawmakers there ended up having to raise taxes. But it’s not just the Sunflower State’s tax cutting spree giving lawmakers and observers pause: Missouri lawmakers are looking at steep budget cuts for the second consecutive year.

One area to see major cuts is higher education. There is currently bipartisan opposition to these cuts however.

While the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will gain almost $55 million in general revenue in Greitens’ proposed budget, the University of Missouri System will be cut by $43 million compared to the appropriation from the previous year.

This news for higher education comes after a $159 million cut the previous fiscal year.

Responses to the proposal were swift:

Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said he doesn’t want further cuts to higher education.

“If we can have some ‘aha’ moments in the budget and figure out if we can save money in certain places, I think there would be a lot of people in the legislature who would prefer to not see higher education cuts,” Fitzpatrick said.
Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Cape Girardeau, criticized the governor’s continued attack on higher education.

“Another cut is going to do nothing but hurt our education system,” said Lichtenegger, chairwoman of the House Higher Education Committee. “People are going to start going out of state to colleges because our professors are going to leave — that’s what I fear.”
Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia ... said in a Twitter post after the budget was released how the state needs to prioritize higher education.

“We cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of students; they are the future workers and job creators Missouri desperately needs to cultivate,” Rowden tweeted.

Student leaders of Missouri’s public four-year universities also released a statement blasting the governor's proposed cuts (h/t Rachel Gonzalez)

Though it remains to be seen how the tax and budget cuts will play out, Greitens is determined to maintain his position:

“We are not raising taxes on the people of Missouri,” Greitens said. “We told departments to tighten their belts.”