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Educators, Others Express Concerns About HB 253

Jacob McCleland

Some southeast Missouri educator expressed their concerns with Missouri House Bill 253 on Monday. That’s the legislation that cuts income taxes for individuals, businesses and corporations. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill this summer.

Opponents say it will shred $800 million from the state’s budget, and will reverberate throughout programs for education and mental health. Proponents say the bill will make Missouri more competitive for business.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Jackson school district superintendent Ron Anderson said the funding cut would bring a devastating blow that would result in layoffs.

“If this actually were to happen, we would lose $1,250,000 on an annual basis. That equates into at least 25 teachers. Our students cannot afford that,” Anderson said.

Anderson believes the Jackson district would have to turn to local taxpayers to make up the difference.

Cape Girardeau Public Schools superintendent Jim Welker said 75% of his district’s budget is people. If the legislature overrides the veto, he expects layoffs and said the district would have to reconsider a one-to-one technology initiative to put tablet computers into every students’ hands.

“I believe that House Bill 253 is just too risky as a time where we’re already not really funding education to the level that it needs to be,” Welker said.

Cape Girardeau Public Schools will be underfunded by $749,460 if the legislature overrides the veto, Welker said.

Governor Nixon withheld $1.7 million dollars from Southeast Missouri State University’s budget in anticipation of House Bill 253 becoming law. President Ken Dobbins says that amounts to $9 per credit hour for students.

“Nine dollars a credit hour is a significant amount for many of our students, who are first generation, and a lot of them are on financial aid,” Dobbins said. “It might might the difference between whether they go to college or they don’t.”

Dobbins said HB 253 could also lead to the closure of the Cottonwood Residential Treatment Center.

Despite such criticism, the bill is backed by business interests like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. That organization says the legislation was designed to slow the growth of government, and called Nixon’s veto a “missing opportunity” to give every working Missourian a tax cut.

Legislators will attempt to override the governor’s veto during the veto session that begins on Wednesday.