Missouri colleges and universities may still face budget cuts next year, but they may be less than what the governor wants.
The chairman of the Missouri House Budget Committee on Thursday proposed a way to reduce the financial hit to higher education outlined in Republican Gov. Eric Greitens' 2019 budget proposal.
Republican Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick said during a news conference that funds the state had set aside for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as "CHIP," could free up money for higher education now that CHIP has received additional federal funding from Congress. He declined to give specific numbers but said the restorations would be in the "tens of millions."
"It's going to be significant," said Fitzpatrick. He estimated more concrete numbers would be released in about two weeks.
Greitens' 2019 budget proposed giving higher education institutions $92 million less than originally budgeted for the 2018 fiscal year. He also withheld millions of dollars allocated by lawmakers from the current higher education budget.
The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment. Previously, Greitens said that increased spending on health care "means we have to tighten up in other areas of government and spend less money." He also cited growth in "administrative costs" at many universities.
A brief statement from UM System President Mun Choi did not address Fitzpatrick's plan specifically but noted that: "An investment in the University of Missouri System and our four campuses is an investment in the state of Missouri. There is so much we can contribute to the state with stable support."
Legislative leaders earlier said they hoped to reduce the cuts.
"If it were up to me, we'd restore all the cuts," said Republican Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, who's also the Higher Education Committee chair. "I've been to a lot of campuses and I can tell you: They've all cinched the belt."
Lawmakers have also repeatedly criticized higher education spending. During a floor debate Wednesday, GOP Sen. Rob Schaaf read aloud the salaries of several University of Missouri administrators, and wondered whether some of those salaries could be docked to save money.