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A little over five years ago:

Chris Koster in Independence, MO (March 30, 2008)

…In 2001 general revenue to higher education in the state of Missouri was nine hundred and sixty million dollars. 2001. In 2008. We’re now in the 2008 budget cycle, general revenue to higher education in the state of Missouri is nine hundred and thirty six million dollars. A reduction of twenty four million dollars despite the fact that we’ve gone forward by seven years. We fell back in nominal terms, nominal dollar terms by twenty four million dollars. In real dollar terms, which mean you put, you pump a higher ed inflator through there which is about, I dunno, say eight percent, um, we are seven hundred and twenty five million dollars behind where we were in 2001 in higher education.

The reality is, I mean, we can pretend it’s otherwise, but Missouri is the 46th lowest taxing state in the country. We are never going to catch up to the high water mark that Bob Holden hit in 2001. It’s just never gonna happen. We can try. And we should try. But it’s never gonna happen. I mean, it’s, once you fall behind by a billion dollars in a twenty billion dollar budget, we can all pretend it can happen, but it can’t happen.

Let me give you one other statistic. Because this is so fascinating, hardly anybody really recognizes this about the state budget. We take in two hundred seventy million dollars more each year then we did the last year. So, know you start to understand the consequences of falling a billion dollars behind. We only take in two hundred seventy million dollars more this year then we did last year. Of that two hundred and seventy million dollars, two hundred and forty million is immediately taken up by mandates. That means inflation in pharmaceuticals, inflation in Medicaid, the heating costs that it keeps, that it takes to warm the Capitol during the winter. Two hundred and forty of the two hundred and seventy is immediately gone. That means in any given year we’ve got about thirty million dollars in discretionary money to change the course of history with. Now you understand the consequences of falling a billion dollars behind in just the higher education budget, much less the k-12 budget. When you’ve only got thirty million dollars how can we ever catch up in higher education? Of the thirty million dollars we only, this year in tax credits to wealthy corporations we will give away something like sixty million dollars. So every single penny that did not go to inflation went to big business. Every single penny of it….

The republican way is perpetual austerity for the 99%. God forbid that corporations and the top 1% ever have to think about the public good and invest in, you know, civilization. Revenue is always out for republicans. Because why should Mississippi be last when Missouri could occupy that space? Just asking.

Senator David Pearce (r-21) at the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors meeting on campus in Warrensburg on April 19, 2013.

On Friday morning Senator David Pearce (r-21) spoke on SB 437, a bill which he sponsored, at the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors meeting on campus in Warrensburg. The bill, in its present form, reallocates the fixed funding pie toward community colleges and (as near as we can tell) the University of Missouri system and away from the remaining four year institutions in the state. The 21st Senate District includes the University of Central Missouri, one of the four year institutions adversely affected by this bill.

Senator David Pearce (r-21): [….]

And, uh, first up, Senate Bill 437. And that’s a bill that, that I’m sponsoring. Um, it’s one that has, uh, received quite a bit of discussion and I will say, some controversy. Senate Bill 437, uh, basically creates a distribution model for higher education funding. It’s taken the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Education and tried to come up with a long range funding formula for higher education. Um, it’s, this bill is number two on the Senate calendar, on the perfection calendar. And, hope to get to it on Tuesday or Wednesday and have a, a good discussion on that.

Um, I was just on the radio and I, and I said that, uh, in higher education we have limped along for decades because when it comes to funding it’s across the board increase or across the board decrease, regardless of how well your university is doing. We have thirteen unique institutions and we can do better. And, uh, Senate Bill 437 tries to create a, a model for that. Let me just give you one example of something that happened in our appropriations committee this week, which I did not like, which, I think, explains why we need a formula. We were going through the appropriations process and a, a senator, a colleague, a friend of mine, uh, put an amendment for one point three million dollars for Missouri State. Out of the blue. And, um, we had somewhat agreed among ourselves that we would just take the recommendations and, and move from there. And so, that’s the way funding has been in higher ed for decades. It’s who’s got the political strength, who’s at the table, universities fighting against each other. And that’s the wrong way to fund higher education. So that was a perfect example of why we need a formula. Because I don’t want to be put in the unenviable position of being chairman of the Senate Education Committee and have to fight against Missouri State on the floor. That doesn’t do anybody any good. And so, if we can come up with a found, uh, uh, funding formula that, uh, treats all the universities the same based on performance I think that’s the way to go.

Uh, right now we have, uh, complete support from the community colleges, uh, but we’re having some trouble from the four years. And, uh, I have tasked the, the presidents of the university to give me some language by the end of today, amendments that they can live with, the ways that they want to see the bill change as it goes through the process so we’ll be ready to discuss it next week.

So that’s, that’s a tough bill. Um, but yet we’re gonna go forward and we’re gonna get [inaudible] and I’d love to see it pass the Senate this, this week and head on over to the House.

[….]

Um, obviously, uh, if you’ve been in my office you’ve seen my shrine to UCM. Uh, so it’s UCM and others, but it’s also important, in my capacity that, that  I look at statewide implications as well. Because, uh, higher education is important for the entire state. So, with that I’d be glad to take any questions you might have.

University of Central Missouri Board of Governors President Marvin Wright.

University of Central Missouri Board President Marvin Wright: Senator, we, uh, you know, as a board, appreciate everything that you do and attempt to do for the University of Central Missouri. It, uh, is in your district and, and, uh, I know we lean on you from time to time for assistance and help. And we appreciate, uh, the assistance that we do get, and also from Denny in the House.

Uh, the current status, I was glad to hear you say that you’ve requested some amendments.

Senator Pearce (r): Um, hm.

Marvin Wright: And I have no idea what those amendments are going to be.  Uh, I, I do know that, that the, the board is, is concerned. Uh, and the unknown always bothers everybody, you know. And we’re no different, no matter how old we are. We never get used to it, unknown. But, the, the one, one of the points in the, in the legislation, uh, is with respect to the, the percentages of the monies that are going to community colleges as opposed to four year institutions. And as I understand it, uh, the community colleges, uh, stand to gain some fourteen percent, uh, in appropriations. And that obviously means there has to be reduction. That reduction is in four year institutions. And that four year institutions would include the University of Central Missouri. And, you know, I, I would like to know how, how do you view this as being of assistance to the University of Central Missouri? Because, obviously, we’re part of the State of Missouri and part of the higher education,  and, uh, being going through a process, our faculty, staff and everybody else of budget reductions, that type of thing. And, uh, this bothers us, uh, this reduction. And, and I, I’d like to know what about that is something that, that, that we as a board could feel comfortable with?

Senator Pearce (r): It’s a work in progress. And, um, when we first proposed the bill we put in language to deduct half of the local contribution for community colleges. So, we basically were reducing their local effort. Obviously, their, their operating levies for the community colleges. I mean, community colleges do have another funding source that four years don’t. And so, what we tried to do was to, uh, cut that in half so there wouldn’t be a, a wide swing in overall contributions from community colleges to four years.

Um, I’ll be honest, uh, community colleges have probably more political input and more grassroots support in the legislature than four years do. Um, and that was something that community colleges felt that they could not live with, not necessarily because it gave them more money, but because they felt that if we deducted half the local match that they could never, ever have another operating levy increase. Because the local folks would feel that the state was penalizing them for not, um, supporting it and not, uh, taking advantage of the entire local match. And so, that decision was made, uh, in committee, uh, by seven to three vote to, uh, basically not deduct half their match. What that does, it, uh, goes from fifteen percent of the overall pie for community colleges up to twenty percent. Now if I was sitting in front of the State Fair Community College Board of Governors right now they would, they would be thrilled. Because, um, their main talking point is that, uh, they educate forty-two percent of higher education students but yet only get fifteen percent. And so these are very, very tough decisions that we had to, to talk about when it comes to overall funding for higher education.

Marvin Wright: I think you can understand what our concern is.

Senator Pearce (r): Right.

Marvin Wright: Uh, I think this institution and it’s faculty and staff do a tremendous job of educating people.

Senator Pearce (r): And, and.

Marvin Wright: And those who’ve graduated from here, I assume you would agree that it does a fine job of, [Senator Pearce: [laugh]] of educating people.

Senator Pearce (r): Right.

Marvin Wright: And it’s, it’s one that, that frankly, it’s disturbing to us that, uh, these people are tightening their belts around here and yet we’re faced with the fact that, that, uh, there’s going to be a reduction, basically, based on the percentages. And we’re, we’re just at a loss. I understand politics.

Senator Pearce (r): Um, hm.

Marvin Wright: I, that’s a misnomer. I, I’m sorry. I don’t, I don’t understand it. I from time to time pick up a glimpse of what happens in it. And, and this is one of those things that, that obviously I, I think that we would, we would love to see, if you want to give us a chance to smile like the State Fair board is smiling now, uh, for that part of this legislation to some way be modified so that we as an institution realize some benefit from what we’ve been trying to do and what these people have tried to do.

Senator Pearce (r) : Well, there are many benefits for performance funding and there are a lot of disadvantages with the status quo. Um, I don’t feel that that is in the long term best interest of UCM and so, I think going this route is the best route. Uh, and if you’re a university that is excelling and, uh, uh, accomplishing the things that you as a board had set out I don’t think you have a thing to worry about. Uh, and, certainly, I, I, any amendments and things like that that you want to, to have, uh, brought forward we’ll certainly take a look at those. Uh, but we are gonna, uh, debate the bill on the floor next week.

Marvin Wright: Okay. Now you have people you say that are gonna be submitting amendments to you today?

Senator Pearce (r):  Well, um, I’ve had, I visited with, uh, Dr. Troy Paino [president of Truman State University] and he was representing all three universities. And I made it very clear to him that I would like to have amendments, uh, brought to our office by the end of today, uh, on, uh, on how they could make the bill better. You know, to me, it’s very easy to just sit back and say, no, we don’t like it. And, uh, I think we can do better than that. And so, if there are ways that we can do that I’d like to hear that.

Marvin Wright: Well, good. I, I, I do hope that there’s some way that some change can be made which will, you know, acknowledge this institution and, and not put us at a disadvantage.

Senator Pearce (r):  We can see that performance funding, uh, currently in the budget is, is a good thing. I mean, because, obviously, by performance funding the university will be getting more money than if they did just an across the board increase.

Marvin Wright: Anybody else on the board got any questions or observations about? Yes.

University of Central Missouri Board of Governors member Gus Wetzel.

Gus Wetzel: Senator, on this performance funding [inaudible] to me it’s a great idea, it’s a productive idea, it’s a healthy idea. And, of course, we, on this, uh, board and the faculty and, and all the representatives here, we’re committed to it. But, it seems to me you made a statement earlier that, uh, the political, uh, environment pushed the two year schools to be considered on this, and another statement we talk about the political environment of, of another institution that asks for x amount of money to come into the formula for their funding for this year, and that was added. It seems to me that if, if the bill passes that each year the, the non performing schools will go, or the lesser performing schools, or those that are performing that have special needs that are not living up to the criteria of other institutions will have that same political clout that can you come before you and, and the, uh, state, and, uh, you know, if, if their voice is loud enough, it’ll be modified, it’ll go that way.

Senator Pearce (r): Um, hmm. You’re exactly right. Um, currently there are three universities that, um, according to the model are over funded. Um, some of my colleagues think that we should just indiscriminately close two colleges right now. But the political implications won’t allow that to happen. Um, and so, right now, in the bill there is something called a stop loss provision that a university could never receive, um, anything less than ninety-eight percent of their current budget. So, they could, it would never be, uh, like a ten or fifteen or twenty percent decrease in that. But you’re right. I mean, you can never divorce the politics from this process. But I think a, a performance funding helps in that direction.

[….]

Ah, instead of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, it’s reallocating the deck chairs.  

“…I mean, community colleges do have another funding source that four years don’t. And so, what we tried to do was to, uh, cut that in half so there wouldn’t be a, a wide swing in overall contributions from community colleges to four years…”

Ah, originally, austerity for everyone.

The four year institutions have two revenue sources – state support, which has dropped significantly in the past decade, and student tuition. The General Assembly, in it’s infinite wisdom, created an unsustainable funding stream – they cut state appropriations and effectively removed tuition increases (by statute) as a way to make up for those lost state appropriations. What a great scam! There’s no political pressure on the General Assembly from parents and students to increase state appropriations because tuition increases are taken out of the mix. Problem solved!  

“…Um, and that was something that community colleges felt that they could not live with, not necessarily because it gave them more money, but because they felt that if we deducted half the local match that they could never, ever have another operating levy increase. Because the local folks would feel that the state was penalizing them for not, um, supporting it and not, uh, taking advantage of the entire local match…”

But, republicans have made any possibility of increasing revenue so toxic as a standard of public policy that austerity is the only answer. Problem solved!

“…Because, um, their [community college] main talking point is that, uh, they educate forty-two percent of higher education students but yet only get fifteen percent. And so these are very, very tough decisions that we had to, to talk about when it comes to overall funding for higher education…”

Uh, community colleges provide unaccredited two year degrees, four year institutions provide much more than that. Let’s compare, I dunno, training versus education. There’s a value proposition in there somewhere, right? My God, do these people have enough brains to remember how to breathe? Just asking.

Here’s something really rich in the bill language (Senate Committee Substitute) [pdf] – the “peer state” calculation will be based on per capita personal income:

….the group of ten states comprised of the five states next higher than Missouri and the five states next lower than Missouri, based on rank-ordering of all states according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis based on the 2011 midyear population estimates of the census data for the per capita personal income….

Uh, what happens when Missouri finally arrives at last place? Just asking.

Also in the same version of the bill:

….The joint committee shall submit a written report, with any recommendations for legislative action or action by the coordinating board for higher education, the department of higher education, or the institutions, to the secretary of the senate, the chief clerk of the house of representatives, and the coordinating board for higher education.

Yeah, good luck with that.

“…Because I don’t want to be put in the unenviable position of being chairman of the Senate Education Committee and have to fight against Missouri State on the floor. That doesn’t do anybody any good…”

We thought elections were supposed to have consequences. Evidently not in the 21st Senate District.

“…Um, I’ll be honest, uh, community colleges have probably more political input and more grassroots support in the legislature than four years do…”

Missouri State and community colleges are allowed political influence. Is anyone else?