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What are MSU's priorities for the 2022 Missouri legislative session?

 Aerial view of Missouri State University
Aerial view of Missouri State University

In this month's episode of Engaging the Community, Missouri State University president Clif Smart discusses MSU's policy and funding priorities for 2022 as lawmakers prepare to return to Jefferson City in January.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the button above.

State funding priorities

“We put things in two buckets: an appropriations bucket and then a policy bucket,” Smart said.

On the appropriations side, Smart said there are a couple of big issues for 2022, with the first being an increase in core funding.

“We've got inflation between six and seven percent right now,” Smart said.

Governor Mike Parson has announced that his state budget is going to include a 5.5% cost-of-living increase for state employees to help offset the impact of inflation.

“We need the ability to do a similar thing [for faculty and staff] to make sure that compensation keeps up with inflation,” Smart said.

“Essentially, if we're not able to do a compensation increase that matches inflation, people are, in essence, taking a pay cut because stuff costs more,” Smart said.

The other major effort in the area of funding will be the state’s allocation of billions of dollars of federal Covid relief funding.

“The governor has called for big ideas, big projects from the universities. Our big projects are, really, renovating and expanding our science facilities, Temple and Cheek Hall, to be able to continue to grow our STEM programs,” Smart said.

Policy priorities

On the policies MSU will be pushing for, Smart said one “worrisome” bill that has been pre-filed in Jefferson City would preclude state entities from contracting with a business that has implemented a vaccine mandate for its employees.

“Well, most importantly, two of our biggest partners right here in Springfield are Mercy and Cox. Almost all of our health students rotate through there in practicums or internships. Many then ultimately work there,” Smart said.

He said that bill, if it were to become law, would be “devastating” to the university’s health care students and programs.

Other pieces of legislation the university will keep an eye on pertain to academic freedom—particularly on politically or culturally sensitive topics like communism or Critical Race Theory.

“We don't teach things as truth; we teach things, you know, as theory and talk about them. And people come away with their own views of what they think,” Smart said.