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Proposed Extension cuts uncalled for -- Part 2

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This is a continuation of last week's column which was about the 50 percent cut that Governor Jay Nixon had proposed for the University Extension budget. Such a cut would be significant and certainly not called for. Here is a major program that has an direct effect on many citizens in the state and on a much larger number indirectly. A cut of this type would gut Extension as we know it.

One thing about it, the governor got the attention of a large number of people. During this past week, several have commented about their concerns of what the governor had proposed. Here is a program that for every dollar invested there is a $27.50 return. Certainly, Extension is a good investment. There is an economic challenge for the state, but it is hard to understand why the governor would make this kind of proposal.

One agriculturist commented to me that the governor was not friendly to agriculture. This was the situation while serving as attorney general. As was presented last week the amount budgeted for agriculture and natural sciences is only 15 percent of the total budget. This is only $3 out of each $20 budgeted for this part of the program. There is much more included in Extension programs than agriculture and natural sciences.

There are some things that we often take for granted. However, when we are threaten, we wake up and realize that we do not want them to be taken away from us. Evidently, when the governor made the proposal, he had no idea of the importance of Extension and the concern of a great number of citizens. Evidently, there was such a major response, that he stepped back some from his original proposal.

On Feb. 11, there was a press release from the governor's office titled, "Gov. Nixon identifies surplus state funds; recommend reallocation to University Extension programs." He filed an amendment to his proposal; to increase the appropriations for the University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension by more than $10 million. The initial proposal included a combined cut of $15.4 million for these programs.

This amounts to a large 20 percent cut -- which is still uncalled for.

These additional funds are a result of his administration identifying surplus funds remaining after the construction at the new women's correctional facility at Chillicothe. Due to Extension programs being one of the last to be cut, after identification of these funds, this was first priority to be restored.

The governor said, "The University Extension programs provide important services for Missourians, and I'm pleased that we have the opportunity to allocate additional resources to fund their work." It is great that he has awakened to the fact that important services are provided by Extension programs. The problem with these funds being transferred to Extension, they are one-time. The funding problem is not fully met.

Granted that due to the economic climate Extension might need to tighten its belt and to make cut backs. This has been going on regularly for at least 30 years. There have been many times that cut backs had to be made in the budget. Enough gets to be enough and it hurts the entire program.

The cut that the governor had proposed was to cut $14.6 million of the $28.3 million in state funds. When there are cuts made in state funding it amounts to an even larger amount. University of Missouri Extension is part of the Cooperative Extension program, which receives federal as well as local funds. As a result of state funds being cut there is a loss of leverage for federal funds and for grants.

According to a Joplin Globe/Associated Press article Monday, "Nixon's decision is largely symbolic."

"Legislators weren't going along with his recommended cut anyway. And even if they were, University curators could have funded the Extension System regardless."

That statement is correct. Extension is a part of the University of Missouri System. It is a not a line item. The funds are appropriated to the University of Missouri and then the determination is made how they are used. They have not been a line item for probably 40 years. I can remember when they were line items.

It was all combined into one fund -- the University of Missouri. The entire university had to work together and not go separate directions for funding. I will admit that there were times that I thought Extension would have done better if it was a line item. The administration of Extension in those days said that it was important to be included in the total budget.

With this information it is important for the University of Missouri budget to be cut with the purpose of cutting funds for Extension. Much could and needs to be said about the effects of Extension programs in Missouri. As we urge the support of extension, we are urging the support of the University of Missouri which includes teaching, research and Extension.

Again as stated in last week's column -- Supporters of Extension Services should contact Governor Nixon's office (573) 751-3222, House Budget Chairman Representative Allen Icet (573) 751-1247, Allen.Icet@house.mo.gov. And Senate Budget Chairman Senator Gary Nodler (573) 751-2306, gary-nodler@senate.mo.gov.

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large