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Stadium debate delays Rainy Day vote

May 02, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 1281

JEFFERSON CITY - Preoccupied with a debate stretching late into the night on subsidies for a new baseball stadium in St. Louis, the Senate postponed debate on a plan to tap an emergency fund to balance the state's budget.

Senators briefly debated the plan, which would to use $120 million from the state's Budget Reserve Fund to cover a shortfall in state tax revenues in the budget that ends June 30. However, the proposal was laid over while debate continued on the stadium proposal.

Gov. Bob Holden announced last week that state tax revenues would come in more than $200 million less than had been originally projected. Holden pledged to withhold $56 million from state agencies and asked lawmakers to tap the so-called "Rainy Day" funds to keep the state's budget balanced.

Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, said he wasn't happy to borrow from the fund, which must be paid back over the next three years, but said the state was in a true emergency.

"I'm not wild about doing any of these things, but I think you have to do it in order to keep [this year's budget] going," Russell said.

In other budget action, negotiators agreed Wednesday on a $200,000 punitive cut to the University of Missouri System, down from the $720,000 originally proposed in the House.

Lawmakers working on next year's budget kept a $100,000 cut directed at University of Missouri-Kansas City political science professor Harris Mirkin, whose writings on pedophilia angered many in the General Assembly.

A $500,000 cut directed at KOMU News Director Stacey Woelfel was reduced to $50,000. Another $120,000 cut, aimed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus lobbyist Betty Van Uum, was also reduced to $50,000.

Negotiators agreed to draft a statement to the university explaining the cuts and urging them to take corrective action. Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, a member of the committee, said he wasn't sure exactly what message lawmakers were attempting to send.

"There are some people who think Stacey (Woelfel) should be fired, some people think they should sell the station," Graham said. "I haven't figured out the exact message yet."

The conference committee, which is ironing out differences in House and Senate versions of the budget, remains deadlocked on how much to increase funding for local schools.

House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, is pushing for a $175 million increase, while Senate negotiators in the conference committee are proposing a $100 million increase, saying money is too tight to provide a larger sum for schools.