JEFFERSON CITY - Additional withholdings of money for higher education is a possibility, but not a certainty. That's the message from the state's Office of Administration as Gov. Bob Holden and Missouri lawmakers consider how to bridge a projected $250 million gap in the current fiscal year's budget.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, OA commissioner Jackie White said the office is considering various options and "has not made a decision to withhold or delay May and June payments to 2- and 4-year state higher education institutions."
State Budget Director Brian Long said a notification sent to institutions earlier this year was intended to give them a "heads up" that withholdings or delayed payments were possible. He said that message was misconstrued by some to mean such actions were a certainty.
Holden is in discussions with House and Senate leaders to determine what actions will be taken to make up the projected shortfall, Long said. He said it will be later this week before any decisions are made.
Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia and chair of the Appropriations Committee on Education, said securitization of a portion of the tobacco settlement and use of the so-called Rainy Day Fund are options under consideration. He said withholdings for state agencies are also being looked at, but operating funds for higher education will be spared.
"I don't think that the governor is looking at withholding any more from higher education," Graham said. "Higher education has taken the brunt of the withholdings and a lot of the cuts so far, and I don't think he's looking in that direction at all."
Graham said withholdings of life science grants, some of which were earmarked for MU, are still being considered.