- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House panel approved a spending plan Wednesday that includes about $69 million more for K-12 schools and nearly $10 million more in performance funding for higher education.

Despite the increase to basic aid, the money still would fall well short of what’s needed to fully fund K-12 public schools in the fiscal year starting July 1. Schools would need about $440 million more on top of that to fully comply with a state school funding law, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Gov. Jay Nixon had asked lawmakers for $85 million more.

Missouri School Boards Association chief of staff Brent Ghan said the proposed House increase “would at least prevent some school districts in the state from realizing a cut in state funding for the next fiscal year.”

“However, even with this increase, we would continue to fall well short of fully funding our public schools,” Ghan said in a statement.

House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan said there’s “only so much money to go around.”

About $9.9 million more in recommended performance-based funding for public colleges and universities also depends on how the state’s economy fares next fiscal year. Because of a dispute between the governor’s office and the House over how much revenue growth the state will see, House lawmakers are proposing to pay for that and some other programs through a surplus fund.

If the state gets revenue growth higher than 3.1 percent - the House’s more conservative projection compared to Nixon’s 4.1 percent estimate - the surplus fund will get the excess money.

Flanigan has said the surplus method is in response to previous spending restrictions by Nixon when revenues lag.

State budget director Dan Haug said basing funding off the economy could mean colleges and universities don’t see any increase next year because adequate revenue growth might not come until it’s too late in the fiscal year to use.

Haug also noted Nixon had asked for a larger $55.6 million increase in performance-based funding, which in part depends on how well those institutions retain and graduate students, among other performance factors.

“They’ve not made higher education a priority like the governor has,” Haug said.

The current draft of the budget also includes $30 million to bring back a cost-share program for transportation projects, also based on money from the surplus fund. When that program was in previously in place in Missouri, the state transportation department accelerated particular road projects if local governments agreed to cover part of the costs.

State employees also would receive a 2 percent pay raise under the current proposal.

The budget package now moves to the full House for debate. Lawmakers have until May 6 to send a budget to Nixon.

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