JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon highlighted education as a priority in his Tuesday night State of the State speech, saying his budget would nearly triple the state preschool budget and increase K-12 funding by $278 million.
“This is the year to get serious about fully funding our schools,” Nixon told the General Assembly.
He said his plan would put Missouri on the path to fulfilling the education formula next year. The governor’s budget increases education funding by $493 million.
He also called on public universities to freeze their tuition rates.
Nixon also talked about education funding in terms of job creation. By the end of the decade, two-thirds of jobs will require some kind of advanced degree, he said.
Nixon's budget allocates $22 million for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, initiative. The funds would be used to purchase equipment, expand lab space and produce more college graduates in science fields.
Nixon said he also wants to provide community colleges $20 million to educate 1,200 mental health professionals.
Transitioning to health care, Nixon proposed a bond that would fund a new mental health facility in Fulton. Nixon said the Fulton State Hospital is underfunded and has dangerous work conditions.
Nixon also said he wanted to restrict campaign contributions, pass ethics reform, and pass legislation to end workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
Nixon’s expected Medicaid expansion drew loud applause. Although he acknowledged the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, he said that by not doing anything, Missouri isn’t making the program any better.
Because Missouri did not expand Medicaid, residents have paid $115 million since Jan. 1 for other states to expand their own programs while getting nothing in return, Nixon said. With a disparity in costs and benefits, he challenged the General Assembly to reflect on how Missouri cares for people unable to afford normal health insurance.