Lawmakers are expressing both satisfaction and concern over the new biennial budget proposal put forth by Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Tuesday night.
Fletcher's $14.5 billion budget calls for tightening of financial belts across state agencies, including in post-secondary education, already the victim of two cuts this fiscal year. The Governor's plan calls for $386 million in funding for post-secondary education, including a significant portion for new construction projects. Republican Steve Nunn of Glasgow says he would rather see some of that money go towards the poor or primary education.
Primary and secondary education’s funding will remain flat, which means school districts will have to dip into reserve funds to pay for cost increases associated with yearly inflation. Teachers are slated to receive a 1.5 percent and three percent pay raise respectively for the next two years, but school districts will be asked to pay for the first pay raise on their own. In addition, teachers and state government retirees will be asked to pay for a larger share of their own healthcare costs.
Lawmakers, including House Speaker Jody Richards, say the budget does not go far enough to help school districts in the state.
"We can't cut education, we just cannot cut education budgets," Richards said.
Senate and House budget committees will being budget hearings on Thursday morning. A final budget is due by April 15.