The largest appropriations are those allocating money to Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education—and with good reason. Education is crucial for economic growth and, more importantly, for individual success. We in the Missouri Legislature are dedicated to providing the highest-quality education to all Missourians at all levels. The budget reflects this commitment.The 2014 Budget contains the largest level of funding for K-12 education in the history of the state, including a $66 million increase in funding for the Foundation Formula. It also contains $2 million for teaching programs in urban elementary and secondary schools and another $200,000 for the Missouri Charter School Commission. These programs aim to help give children and young people that boost to reach a more productive life.
Today’s working world often requires an advanced degree or technical training. That is why we are working harder than ever to provide funds for higher education. The budget this year includes increases in scholarship opportunities—including a $2.4 million increase for Bright Flight and a $1 million increase for Access Missouri—and in funding for colleges and career programs.Besides the general $25 million increase for four-year State Universities, we also allocated money to establish or build programs that will train students for highly in-demand careers. Among these items are: $1.3 million for an Occupational Therapy Program at Missouri State University and $150,000 for Three Rivers to establish a trade school in Willow Springs. Another $10 million will go to the medical school at the University of Missouri, to build a cooperative program with Springfield hospitals.
The people of Missouri have made it clear health and public safety are top concerns. One of our goals this session has been improving mental health in order to fight crime. We know that health and safety go hand-in-hand. The 2014 budget reflects this goal. We allocated $750,000 for a prisoner re-entry program in St. Louis to help reduce recidivism rates and violent crimes. We also budgeted $8.9 million for developmentally disabled provider rate restricting in the Department of Mental Health, while also arranging the first provider rate increases in years for nursing homes, mental health services, and home and community-based services.While we focus on the basic functions of state government, like education, safety, and growth, the arts are not neglected. We take pride in the culture and landmarks of our state, and as economic growth continues, we turn our eyes towards cultural growth. To this end, this year’s budget provides $4.2 million in new funding for the Missouri Arts Council and a $1 million increase in Tourism Funding.
The budget is not all increases, though and cuts in spending should always be considered and pursued. There are times when programs outlive their use and when government services can be performed more effectively at the local level. This year, we moved the issuance of CCW permits from the Department of Revenue to the county sheriff’s offices. This resulted in less funding for the Department of Revenue, additional funding for counties, and more privacy for Missourians.