CFM Initiative may be budget casualty

Brennan Stebbins

A proposed $1 million increase in state appropriations for Missouri Southern might be nothing more than wishful thinking.

When Gov. Jay Nixon unveiled his Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, included was $40 million for the Caring For Missourians Initiative, designed to address a shortage of health professionals in Missouri by increasing the number of graduates in health fields at higher education institutions.

Southern would see an increase of $1,095,796, bringing the University’s state appropriations to $26,692,955. It now looks doubtful, however, that the initiative will make it onto the final FY 2010 budget.

“In my opinion no, the short answer is no,” said Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) on whether or not the initiative would be included in the final budget.

The dim outlook is a result of a state budget deficit that could top $260 million, making many lawmakers skeptical about any proposed increases.

Icet said he didn’t understand why higher education appropriations as they stand now couldn’t be used to solve the health care shortage.

“The state funds the universities at almost a billion dollars,” Icet said. “In fact, we have a three-year program we’re actually putting more money into higher education. If this was a priority for the universities they have new money that’s uncommitted to any other program. If it’s a priority, my question is why don’t they allocate this new money to the program if it’s a priority?”

University President Bruce Speck said Southern hasn’t made plans for how to spend the money if it came.

“We haven’t even begun to talk about it,” Speck said.

Speck did speculate as to how the money could be used on campus.

“We can certainly enhance some of our programs by either hiring more professors,” he said. “Equipment is another issue. Some places need more equipment. If some of that is a scholarship component and they want that it would give more people an opportunity to come to school.

“Of course some of that depends on how they want us to spend the million. If there aren’t a lot of strings attached we would spend that in ways from our perspective that would increase health care,” he added.