- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday blocked more than $115 million in state spending ranging from money for sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits to funding for a commission reviewing the University of Missouri System following turmoil.

The budget cuts to 131 programs come after revenue last fiscal year grew only 0.9 percent. Nixon said cutting spending for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, was needed to balance the state budget.

“In order to protect our shared priorities like public education, college affordability and mental health, a number of new and expanded programs will have to be pared back or put on hold,” Nixon said in a statement.

The governor said the spending restrictions will not affect funding increases in the fiscal year 2017 budget for K-12 classrooms, higher education and a nearly $200 million increase for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

But all the money lawmakers had set aside to pay for an eight-member panel to review the University of Missouri System - $750,000 - was frozen by Nixon. Frustrated lawmakers proposed a review of the system after some voiced concern over how turmoil on Columbia’s campus last year was handled. Protests by students over what some saw as administrators’ indifference to racial issues culminated in the resignations of the system president and Columbia chancellor.

Other spending restrictions include more than $1.6 million in grants for sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits for firearms and other weapons. The governor also blocked more than $2 million in increased spending for alternatives to abortion programs.

Nixon also cut all the $200,000 set aside to train more teachers in how to educate students who’ve dealt with trauma, trimmed back an increase for an active shooter training program through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to $100,000 more, and pared down a planned $1.5 million for a land grant match for Lincoln University to $500,000.

A decrease in corporate income tax receipts drove lower-than-expected revenue collections last fiscal year, despite increases in individuals’ income tax and sales tax receipts that state budget director Dan Haug said signal a growing economy.

Haug said a dip in corporate income and franchise taxes was expected because the corporate franchise tax was in the process of being phased out through January, but not the 35.6 percent net decrease that happened last fiscal year. Haug said his office still is analyzing what caused the drop.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and a Shell Knob Republican, said Wednesday that he’s disappointed in some of the spending restrictions but said the withholds appear necessary.

“That’s part of the way it works sometimes,” Fitzpatrick said. “The budget had to be balanced.”

Nixon also warned lawmakers that he’ll need to freeze more funding if they override his vetoes of several tax breaks during a September session, including a sales tax exemption for yoga and other instructional classes.

Nixon can later opt to release some or all of the money if revenue collections increase enough.

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