By Jason Hancock
Gov. Jay Nixon implored lawmakers Tuesday to pump nearly $500 million in additional funding into education, from preschool all the way up to the Missouri's colleges and universities.
He also warned lawmakers that he plans to once again veto any tax cut proposal "that takes money out of our classrooms."
"Our growing economy, combined with our sound budget management, affords us this unique opportunity to invest in our students' future -- our state's future," Nixon said in excerpts of his annual State of the State address released before he spoke to a joint session of the General Assembly Tuesday night.
Nixon's proposed budget includes tripling the funding for the Missouri Preschool Program and putting an additional $278 million into K-12 schools. That infusion of cash, Nixon said, will put the state on track to fully fund the K-12 foundation formula by next year.
"This is the test -- and this is the year -- to get serious about fully funding our schools," he said.
Nixon is also calling the on the state's four-year institutions to once again freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates. His budget proposal includes increases in funding for a pair of scholarship programs.
As for cutting taxes, Nixon balked at the idea, saying he's already signed four specific, targeted tax cuts during his time as governor.
"Missouri's a low-tax state -- sixth lowest in the nation -- and we like it that way," he said.
Last year, a coalition of education groups joined Nixon in opposing a GOP-backed tax cut plan. The legislation ultimately died when Republicans couldn't rally enough support to override the governor's veto.
Nixon pointed to that victory during his speech, arguing that Missourians "expect their elected leaders to support public schools, because they know that education is the best economic development tool there is.
"High paying jobs, growing businesses, thriving communities -- these are goals we share," Nixon said, "so let's invest in the one thing we know will help us achieve them: a workforce that can compete worldwide."
(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)