Republican state lawmakers are pushing back on $68 million in cuts to higher education proposed by Gov. Eric Greitens in the $28.7 billion budget he released this week.

Good for them. They should push back. It’s a dumb idea.

Budgets are value statements. They reflect our priorities. Slashing higher education funding doesn’t represent Missourians’ values.

It’s not good policy and it’s detrimental to the state’s economy. Especially right now.

As the economy continues to expand, employers are in critical need of skilled workers. They can’t find enough trained employees — the kind universities and community colleges produce.

There is an acute need for skilled workers in Franklin County. Companies can’t find the right people to fill the jobs.

You don’t address this problem by disinvesting in higher education. It’s counterintuitive. Research shows vacant jobs cost companies hundreds of dollars a day in lost profits and ultimately the job skills gap hurts our country and our state’s economic growth.

Yet, it’s the second year in a row public universities and community colleges have faced deep cuts from the state.

That includes East Central College. Last year the state cut the community college’s appropriation by about $450,000. If Greitens’ higher education budget for the next fiscal year is approved, the college would experience a similar reduction.

The college was forced to raise tuition by $5 per credit hour across the board last year because of the state cuts. The college may have to do it again.

Students and parents will shoulder the costs. They are the losers in the governor’s proposed spending plan.

But it doesn’t have to be that way if legislators take action. They have the power to restore the cuts and to reassert our state’s real values and priorities.

We hope they take that opportunity.