Missouri Will Balance Its Budget With Foreclosure Settlement Funds

Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced that he would use the funds his state received from a $26 billion mortgage settlement between 49 states and the nation’s largest banks to help balance the state’s budget, even though the settlement money was marked to help homeowners. In all, Walker will use $25.6 million of the $31.6 million Wisconsin’s state government receives to help close a budget shortfall.

Though Walker’s move to push struggling homeowners aside may seem radical, it is now being followed by at least one other state. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and Attorney General Chris Koster (D) have pledged to put $40 million of the state’s $196 million share of the settlement into the state’s general fund to boost its higher education budget, Stateline reports:

Koster, a Democrat, told reporters on Thursday that he agrees with the governor’s call for more higher education funding and will transfer the $40 million Nixon has requested into the general fund, citing the “severe budget shortages” the state faces.

Though specific terms of the settlement have not been released, states have been given significant leeway on how to spend the money from it. According to the National Mortgage Settlement website, however, the money is supposed to “help fund consumer protection and state foreclosure protection efforts.” The full $26 billion, though, is already woefully short of what is needed to ameliorate the nation’s housing crisis, and diverting funds from it to other problems will only exacerbate that fact.

And while Nixon and Koster’s plan to boost higher education funding, which faces a 12.5 percent cut in Nixon’s proposed budget, is certainly a noble goal, there are other sources from which the money could come that wouldn’t jeopardize relief from homeowners. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out in January, Missouri has a “propensity to hand out tax credits like legislative candy along a parade route.” Ending the credits, many of which go to corporations, could generate more than $500 million in new revenue, more than enough to restore the higher education budget without taking money from programs meant to help struggling homeowners.