- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens cut more than $146 million in spending from the budget on Monday, including close to $68 million in core funding for public universities and community colleges.

Greitens announced the cuts for this fiscal year’s budget just one week after he took office. He said the cuts are necessary because of lower-than-expected tax revenues and rising costs in Medicaid and other programs.

“You elected me because I’ll always tell it like it is, and more hard choices lie ahead,” Greitens said in an emailed statement. “But as Missourians, I believe that we must come together, tighten our belts, be smart and wise with our tax dollars, and work our way out of this hole by bringing more jobs with higher pay to the people of Missouri.”

The cuts are on top of about $200 million in spending restrictions made by Greitens‘ predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon had estimated state revenues would grow about 4.1 percent this fiscal year compared to last year, and lawmakers planned on 3.4 percent growth. Greitens and lawmakers on Friday said they’re lowering expectations to 3 percent.

Greitens said no cuts were made to K-12 education funding, but he eliminated almost $9 million in busing aid for public K-12 school districts. He also slashed about $56 million for public universities, and close to $12 million from community colleges.

The education cuts drew criticism from House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty.

“Weakening public education won’t grow Missouri’s economy or create jobs,” she said in an emailed statement.

Cuts to other programs included slashing tourism advertising by $3 million, a more than $3.8 million cut to a biodiesel production incentives program, and about $4.5 million funding cut to the Missouri Technology Investment Fund.

Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said the cuts likely will be enough to keep the budget balanced and end this fiscal year with enough money to start off the next fiscal year.

“The restrictions had to happen,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m glad he acted on them quickly.”

Greitens also attributed budget problems to “special interest tax breaks,” which Fitzpatrick similarly criticized.

The governor is scheduled to deliver his first State of the State address on Tuesday, but he’s breaking from tradition and won’t outline his budget proposal for next fiscal year at that time. Greitens said he’ll outline plans to cut back on government waste and bolster the economy during his speech.

Fitzpatrick has said he expects a budget from Greitens in early February.

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