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Mo. Senate panel agrees to school funding hike

David a. Lieb, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri schools appear likely to get a 2 percent funding increase next year as a result of a decision Tuesday by a Senate budget panel.

The Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to provide a $66 million increase sought by Gov. Jay Nixon to the $3 billion core budget for public elementary and secondary schools. The House had previously approved a $65 million increase.

The nearly identical figures are important because, under legislative rules, House and Senate members negotiating a final version of the state budget are generally prohibited from going below or above the dollar amounts included in each chamber's budget plan. That means schools stand a good chance of getting the proposed funding increase.

The Senate committee also agreed Tuesday to go with a House plan providing an annual $500 pay raise to state employees starting in January 2014, which is halfway through the next fiscal year.

Nixon had proposed a 2 percent raise for employees. That would have resulted in more money than a flat $500 raise for many employees but, as some lawmakers noted, would have provided a larger sum to those who already are making more than their colleagues.

The Senate panel embraced Nixon's plan to provide an extra 2 percent raise to about 1,800 state employees in nursing positions. Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the committee also was working on an extra pay raise for some people who work in the Department of Corrections and at the Fulton State Hospital for the mentally ill.

Other decisions Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee could result in the need for further negotiations with the House.

Specifically, the Senate panel agreed to go with Nixon's recommended $34 million funding increase for public colleges and universities. The money would be distributed according to whether the institutions met specific performance criteria in areas such as student retention and graduation. The result is that some colleges could get as much as a 5.4 percent increase while others could get as little as a 2.2 percent bump in state funds.

The House version of the budget included a $20 million funding increase for colleges and universities but would distribute it based equal percentages, not the new performance criteria.


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