June 26, 2003

Berkowitz Blasts House Leadership For Irresponsible Budget

Former State Representative Sam Berkowitz (D-Memphis) said recently that the budget pushed through by GOP leadership during last week's Special Session of the Missouri General Assembly is "irresponsible and heartless" due to the $340 million it will cut from schools and colleges - and still remains $240 million out of balance.

"For the Republican leadership of the House to stand up and say it is proud of a budget that is $240 million out of balance and represents the biggest education cut in the state history is beyond irresponsible," said Berkowitz. "The frustrating thing is, they wouldn't even consider alternatives. They stood by and protected their buddies in the corporate boardrooms and left the children of the state high and dry.

The first budget passed by the General Assembly was $367 million out of balance and made huge cuts to elementary and secondary education, higher education, and services to the poor, disabled, elderly, handicapped, and mentally ill. Due to the receipt of one-time facial relief money from the federal government, some of the cuts to key programs aiding the disadvantaged and poor were restored.

But because GOP-budget makers based their funding levels on January projections, education funding now looks worse than it did in May, Berkowitz said. He is a former teacher and coach.

"This budget has no basis in reality," said Berkowitz.

Wednesday, Governor Bob Holden announced he would again veto the two bills related to school funding, and would call the legislature into a second special session to consider funding alternatives to shore up the budgets for schools and colleges. He has asked lawmakers to approve a plan to eliminate corporate tax breakers and use the funds for education programs. The governor also continues to want to put a funding plan before voters. GOP leaders in the House and Senate refused to even consider either option.

Without additional funding, cuts to elementary and secondary education will total $340 million, while funding to colleges and universities will total $60 million. An estimated 3,400 teachers and staff will lose their jobs under this plan.

"It is my hope that after they talk to their constituents and see what this will do to our schools, they will see just how important this issue is," said Berkowitz. "I hope lawmakers come back in September and do what it takes to provide for our children's future".

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