Governor releases withheld funds

Dr. Julio León, University President

Dr. Julio León, University President

T.J. Gerlach

When Gov. Bob Holden withheld $127 million from Missouri schools and institutions of higher education, he said he would release the funds as soon as “fiscally possible.”

On April 9, a press release announced Holden did just that. Holden found out late April 8 that $50 million held for a potential tax refund to Southwestern Bell and some other companies was made available.

These freed funds, as well as $40 million saved by the state and $36 million from a slowdown in tax credit redemptions, allowed Holden to release the withheld education funds.

Also contributing to the release was a larger-than-expected settlement for Missouri from the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco agencies. Some estimates approach $8 million from the settlement.

“I think revenues are coming in and there were other elements that the governor mentioned that allowed him to feel confident about releasing [the funds],” said University President Julio León. “So we’re very lucky in that regard.”

León said he received a call from Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Webb City) on the evening of April 8 about the “good news.”

“The money is certainly very welcome,” he said. “We’re very happy about it because it obviously gets us out of a hole.”

Dr. Charles McGinty, president of the Board of Governors, said the release of the funds is “great news.”

“We’re certainly glad to get [the funds],” McGinty said.

León said Missouri Southern will receive almost $1.4 million from the released funds.

Originally, $1.6 million had been withheld from Southern.

“When they (the governor) cut back, they cut more percentage-wise from us than from other schools,” McGinty said.

León said the funds will mostly go to replenish the reserve funds that were used to help Southern’s budget when the money was withheld.

“The money is going to fund the budget for this current year,” he said. “Because as the withholding took place, we had to make some cuts and use some of our reserves.”

McGinty said with the releasing of the funds, the economy “looks good going forward for the next year.”

“We hope the state is on a more sound footing,” he said.