Gov. Nixon today visited the University of Missouri-Columbia to discuss new cost estimates showing that House Bill 253 could reduce funding for the University of Missouri system by $31 million annually and as much as $54 million this year. The Governor and university leaders said funding cuts of this magnitude, combined with the bill's tax increase on college textbooks, would undermine the quality and affordability of higher education in Missouri.
"At at time when a highly-educated workforce has never been more important to competing in the global economy, House Bill 253 would undermine the quality and affordability of higher education in Missouri now and for years to come," Gov. Nixon said. "During some very challenging times, we've made the tough but necessary choices to balance the budget without raising taxes and hold down college costs for students and families. Today, Missouri leads the nation in holding down college tuition and our economy continues to grow. By raising taxes on college textbooks and funneling millions of dollars away from higher education institutions in every corner of our state, House Bill 253 would throw us off this proven, fiscally responsible course."
House Bill 253 would also add to the tax burden of Missouri families by eliminating the state sales tax exemption for college text books. This would increase the cost of college for Missouri students, while other provisions of the bill would reduce revenue available to fund Missouri's colleges and universities.
Data released this week by the Department of Higher Education at the request of the Missouri Community College Association and the Council on Public Higher Education shows a breakdown of institution funding levels under two scenarios if House Bill 253 becomes law. The first scenario showed the impact using the General Assembly's fiscal note, which estimates a total cost of $692 million each year once the bill is fully implemented. The second scenario showed the impact using funding levels if the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act becomes law, which would increase the cost of House Bill 253 to $1.2 billion as early as the current fiscal year.
"As a major land-grant institution and the state's largest public research university, the University of Missouri is central to our state's continued economic growth and success," Gov. Nixon continued. "That is why it is so troubling that even using the legislature's own estimate for this bill's cost, the University of Missouri system could see a reduction to our core funding of more than $31 million a year. And with college costs already putting a strain on many families' budgets, the last thing they need is a tax increase on college textbooks. That's why I am calling on the General Assembly to support higher education in Missouri and sustain my veto of this ill-conceived and unaffordable bill."
Findings published last week by the three leading independent credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's, also show the potential for serious risks to Missouri's fiscal health and the state's long-standing AAA credit rating if the Governor's veto is overridden and House Bill 253 becomes law.