- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state Senate’s budget panel voted Tuesday to block money from going to Planned Parenthood while increasing funding for higher education - reversing most of the cuts in the House’s spending plan aimed at the University of Missouri.

The Senate Appropriations Committee budgeted an additional $56 million in funding for universities, an increase of about 6 percent. Gov. Jay Nixon has said that would be enough for schools to freeze tuition next year.

House lawmakers, citing lower revenue projections and displeasure with the University of Missouri’s administration, budgeted an increase of only about 2 percent to all schools except the four-campus University of Missouri system, which would not get any increase.

Senate budget writers also pared back the House’s $7.6 million cut to the University of Missouri System to a $1 million cut, while eliminating another $1 million decrease to the university’s Columbia campus.

The University of Missouri drew national attention in November after students protested what they saw as administrators’ indifference to systemic racism on campus. The turmoil culminated in the resignation of the system president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, and in February an assistant professor involved in the protests was fired.

Democrats and some Republicans on the Senate committee - including Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla and Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, whose districts include University of Missouri campuses - said they wanted to ensure students don’t suffer any consequences from the House’s budget cuts.

Schaefer, who chairs the committee, has instead proposed creating a commission to review the university system’s policies and recommend changes by the end of the year. The Senate voted Monday to approve the commission and send the proposal to the House.

The budget panel also agreed to increase the state’s technical and community college funding by more than $4.8 million.

If the higher education increases pass a Senate floor vote, Schaefer predicted they will be among the most contentious issues when lawmakers from both chambers meet to negotiate a compromise budget.

A provision blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid money was already included in the House budget.

State money is already prohibited from funding abortions, and Democrats have said the measure will only make it harder for low-income people to get health care, such as vaccinations.

Republicans said health care is available elsewhere.

The $26 billion budget will take effect July 1. Lawmakers have until May 6 to pass a final spending plan.

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