The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 20, 2014

Nixon to make case for education spending

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon was still making finishing touches to his State of the State address on Monday — a day before he is set to deliver his sixth annual speech to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly.

During his only public event on Monday, Nixon said the speech was still “a little long,” and that he and aides would spend much of the day refining the language and rehearsing ahead of its delivery tonight.

“I’m going to make a strong case for maintaining fiscal discipline, a very strong case for how the best economic development tool we have is education, and how that at this defining moment for our state we should not miss the opportunity to make the strategic investments that will pay big dividends for our state for generations to come,” he said.

Nixon made the remarks during a visit to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, where he announced that his fiscal 2015 budget proposal will include $10 million for the state to renovate a soon-to-be-vacated hospital in the capital city that would become space for the university to expand its nursing and culinary arts programs.

The $10 million announcement was another in a series of calls Nixon has made for new education funding in the lead-up to his annual address. Last month, he called for $20 million in funding aimed at training 1,200 college students for careers in mental health fields under his Caring for Missourians initiative. Nixon previously had called for an additional $36.7 million for higher education funding in order to freeze college tuition and for a $15 million boost to the state’s Bright Flight scholarship program.

Nixon’s proposals for more than $81.7 million in increased education spending come at the same time he has pledged to fully fund the state’s foundation formula for K-12 education by the end of his term — a nearly $594 million feat.

Specifics of his budget will be revealed tonight, but what is known already is that Nixon and the General Assembly have not agreed on a consensus revenue estimate, which aims to predict the likely growth in state revenues for the next fiscal year. Nixon’s administration has estimated $486 million in growth on top of the $8.1 billion in tax revenues brought in this fiscal year, while the General Assembly is estimating $346 million. A stalemate over the $140 million gap is likely.

Nixon said the “time has come and gone” for that debate, and that his budget will be based on the higher figure.

“The unemployment rate is going down, the economy is ticking back up, and I am a little more optimistic,” he said. “I don’t mean to minimize what ($140 million) is, because it’s a lot of money. But in a budget of $25 billion, a revenue differential of what’s going to happen 17 months from now of only ($140 million) is a pretty small differential. I wouldn’t make it more dramatic than that small figure.”

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, who serves on the House Budget Committee, said the tentative plan of the House is to cut back Nixon’s plan by whatever the difference ends up being.

“Nixon’s going to tell us on Tuesday he wants to fully fund the foundation formula, buildings around the state, give some money to children, this that and the other — and we’re not using the same numbers,” he said. “We’re going to do what we normally do.”

Flanigan acknowledged that consensus revenue estimates in recent years have underestimated what the economic growth actually ended up being, but he said it is wise to use the smaller figure when budgeting tax dollars.

“We’re really conservative and we’re dealing with somebody else’s money, so I’d rather take the lower road and be responsible. If you budget conservatively and then the numbers come in higher, in a more crisp pace, you can bank some money,” he said, pointing to last session when the General Assembly used the extra dollars to target a handful of state building projects.

Time and website

GOV. JAY NIXON’S address will take place at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the state’s website,

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