Nixon Urges Legislature To Back Broad Education Funding Increases

Gov. Jay Nixon made education funding the main focus of his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2014. | Photo from
Gov. Jay Nixon made education funding the main focus of his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2014. | Photo from

During his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Jay Nixon outlined proposals to provide $493 million more state funding for education — from preschool through college — and promised to oppose any tax increase that would “take money out of our classrooms.”

“Education is the best economic development tool there is,” Nixon told a packed House chamber.

Nixon also urged the Legislature to expand Medicaid, a proposal the General Assembly rejected last year.

Nixon spent the largest portion of his sixth annual speech explaining why the state needs to spend more for education. The Democratic governor proposed a budget that would triple funding for the Missouri Preschool Program and increase funding for grades K-12 by $278 million. The overall funding increase for education would be $493 million.

Nixon said his budget proposal, as it has in past years, calls on Missouri’s four-year colleges and universities to freeze tuition. He said that there is a demand for students to have skills in science, technology, engineering or math — the so-called STEM fields.

“The best way to attract more of these high-paying jobs is to make sure our workers have skills to fill them,” Nixon said of the STEM initiative. “With an initial investment of $22 million, this initiative will help our universities purchase state-of-the-art equipment, expand lab space and – most importantly – produce more graduates in these fast-growing fields. Investing in high-tech education will pack a huge punch for our economy.”

Nixon also said he would continue to support targeted tax cuts. “Missouri employers will save $70 million this year alone because we cut the corporate franchise tax,” Nixon said. “But here’s what I won’t do: I will not support anything that takes money out of our classrooms.”

Nixon vetoed legislation last year that would have significantly reduced income tax rates for individuals and business owners, and his comment Tuesday night indicated he would do so again this year.

Nixon discussed the shortage of mental health workers in Missouri and said his budget includes $20 million for training a projected 1,200 mental health professionals at community colleges and universities.

After facing opposition to Medicaid expansion from a Republican supermajority in both chambers in the past year, the governor said he wants to work with the legislators to reform Medicaid in the “Missouri way.”

Nixon acknowledged there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, but he said rejecting Medicaid expansion, while most other states have accepted the federally subsidized program, “won’t fix any of those things.”

“I challenge each of you to explain why it makes more sense to pay for Medicaid in other states, than it does to reform it in ours,” Nixon said.

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