During his yearly address to the House and Senate, Governor Jay Nixon laid out is priorities and plans for the upcoming session in a speech given on Jan. 21 in the House chamber.
Nixon’s proposed budget includes a $50 million increase in basic aid for public schools and $12 million more for performance-based funding for public colleges and universities.
“Businesses want Nixon’s agenda to address the gap between Missouri student achievement and business hiring needs,” Dan Mehan said. “Bottom line, we are not producing students that are ready for the workforce that wants to hire them, and we need to fix that.”
In response to the governor’s speech, Speaker of the House John Diehl said he would push to pass legislation that would provide an alternative for the more than 62,000 students trapped in failing schools.
“We must further expand their educational opportunities by providing more choice in the form of additional charter schools and we must take advantage of the technologies of the 21st century by providing virtual schools that will give our young people another vital option to obtain a quality education,” House Speaker John Diehl said in his response to Nixon’s speech. “These are ideas meant to not only help our failing schools but also to make the opportunity of education more accessible and more effective for every student in our state.”
More than half of Nixon’s proposed $129 million increase in basic aid to elementary and secondary schools hinges on the Legislature’s expanding Medicaid, which prompted criticism from some legislative leaders.
Nixon’s office estimated that 300,000 Missourians would gain coverage under the expansion. The federal government would pick up the full tab for the new participants through 2016, when the federal would begin dropping to 90 percent. Some form of the expansion has been adopted in 27 states.
Nixon also addressed a Missouri Chamber priority when he spoke about transportation infrastructure. Nixon addressed the lack of funding for repairs of Interstate 70 and mentioned tolling as an option, as well as increasing the gas tax. The Missouri Chamber was a proponent of Amendment 7 which would have increased the state sales tax rate by ¾ of one percent to help fund road repairs in Missouri but it was voted down at the ballot box in 2014.
Without more revenue, the Department of Transportation recently showed what a construction and maintenance budget of $325 million in 2017 would look like: Only 8,000 of its 34,000-mile highway system would be kept in good condition.
“We need a new consensus on future funding for all Missouri infrastructure needs,” Mehan said. “And we need to come up with a plan soon.”
Diehl stressed the importance of implementing pro-business policies aimed at Missouri economic long-term growth
“Missouri can and should be a premier destination for job creators, but that won’t fully happen until we acknowledge that we are not always competitive with our neighboring states,” Diehl said, in response to proposed policies. “We must reform our systems to allow more freedom for workers and provide a more favorable environment for new, high-tech manufacturing. Finally, many of our neighboring states have fewer and more streamlined regulations. Moving forward, we must go down a path that keeps government out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs and stresses the importance of allowing businesses to do what they do best, create jobs and produce economic prosperity.”