JEFFERSON CITY — The Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Jay Nixon, laid out his plans for elementary and secondary education and the economy during a speech before teachers and administrators Monday night.
Nixon's plan included reducing the state's high school drop out rate, recruiting new teachers and improving school safety. He also spoke about starting early childhood education plans, providing more funding for public education, and increasing teacher salaries.
His opponent's campaign said the state cannot afford Nixon's plan.
"Jay Nixon would bankrupt Missouri schools," said Scott Baker, spokesman for Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. "If all the spending he has proposed went into effect, then teachers would have to be laid off by the hundreds."
Baker said the budget situation is already expected to be tight next year and that Nixon's plans are his attempt to "be all things to all people."
"The next governor is going to face some extremely tough decisions," Baker said.
Oren Shur, spokesman for the Nixon campaign, said, "Kenny Hulshof is the last person who should be talking about a balanced budget. He is the absolute last."
While speaking to reporters after his speech, Nixon said the state needs to become more efficient but said his entire platform is affordable.
"The bottom line is they are about priorities, but I think everything that we've laid out is clearly within the dollars that we have in the bank at this point," Nixon said. "We certainly will have to react to how the economy is in the future, but the proposals I've laid out are clearly fund-able with the cash balance the state has now."
Shur said most of Nixon's plan would not introduce new spending but would improve current programs.
"When Jay Nixon is governor, he will make our public education a priority," Shur said. "Unlike Congressman Hulshof, Jay Nixon believes it is critical we invest in Missouri public schools."
Hulshof presented an urban education plan in late September that called for increasing the number of charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City along with providing tax credits for donating to a scholarship fund to pay for private school tuition.
Nixon said, if elected, he would veto any bill containing school voucher language that came to his desk.
"I just do not think, with the limited tax dollars we have, you cannot take public money and give it to private schools and hope to meet the obligations we have in the future," Nixon said.
Hulshof's plan includes bringing in 1,500 math and science teachers, creating online opportunities for degrees and creating a pre-employment training program, according to his Web site. Baker said Hulshof has proposed $70 million in new state spending and said it would cover the congressman's priorities.