Missouri’s Secretary of State is pushing for the state’s libraries to get the funding he says they’ve been promised.
Republican Jay Ashcroft on Friday toured the Library Center, the main branch for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
“Statutorily, libraries are supposed to get, if I remember correctly, 10 percent of the out-of-state entertainers and athletes tax; which is about four million dollars and change it’s always estimated. We’ve never gotten that,” Ashcroft told KSMU.
Libraries fall under the functions of the Secretary of State’s office, along with elections, securities and business services, among others.
Citing their job placement capabilities, Ashcroft says adequately funding libraries offers “Money that directly impacts the ability of the citizens of this state to be the best that they can be and to live independently and be successful.”
He says there are about 35 job training centers across Missouri, while the state’s 360 plus public libraries have “virtually the same capabilities.”
But full funding for libraries never seem to get to them, says Ashcroft, due to budget cuts or withholds by the governor.
Of the $2.7 million in core public library funding for the current fiscal year, $2 million was restricted by former Gov. Jay Nixon. The remaining $723,000 is what current Gov. Eric Greitens has proposed in library appropriations next fiscal year.
“We’re expecting the withholds that the governor’s doing this year to take out about $100,000 out of our budget,” said Springfield Greene-County Library Director Regina Cooper.
That means the district will spend about $50,000 less on materials and reduce technology expenses by another $50,000, she says.
Ashcroft says over the last three years, state library funding has been cut by about 57 percent. He notes cuts to certain library programs, like broadband access for patrons, could significantly hurt libraries.
“The last time we had cuts with regard to broadband services like, we had 15 or 20 libraries that had to leave the program. So they had to pay more because the prices they’d find in a competitive market place are higher and they’re getting less service for their patrons.”
Cooper points to the library’s available youth services, which offer resources for parents to help their children at an early age.
Ashcroft’s visit came as Springfield is hosting the Republican Party’s annual Missouri State Lincoln Days weekend of events. In November, the GOP swept all statewide seats up for grabs. Newly elected Gov. Eric Greitens is expected to attend a Saturday morning meet-and-greet at Lincoln Days.
Ashcroft, who was elected in November, campaigned on the promise of a voter ID law. That measure passed last year in Missouri. Now, Ashcroft says his office is still working through the financials of the new law’s implementation.
“We decided instead of saying ‘how much money can we get,’ to say ‘what do we need to do this correctly’? And we looked at what the law required, we looked at the different demographic groups that we think we need to be more careful about reaching out to because we think they’ve been more underserved and looked at how we can do that – so that’s how we came about that number.”
That figure is between $1.1 million and $1.5 million, much of which Ashcroft says will go toward informing the public of the law’s requirements. Gov. Greitens has proposed $300,000 for the licenses, IDs and advertisements.
Ashcroft says he’s confident in his conversations with the legislature and governor that his office will receive the necessary funds to carry out the law.