Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, in one of his first stops since delivering the State of the State Address on Wednesday, talked about efforts to keep tuition affordable. During the press conference at OTC’s Springfield campus, Nixon said the community college continues to play a vital role in the educational and economic strength of the region.
According to Nixon, the best economic tool our state has is education. And, he said that’s why he’s taking steps to keep tuition down.
"In fact, over the past seven years Missouri is number one in the nation in holding down tuition increases in our four-year institutions. This year we're going to strengthen Missouri's position as a national leader in college affordability and quality," he said.
He’s included $55.7 million in performance funding in the proposed 2016-2017 budget in exchange for tuition freezes.
If the budget passes, and OTC doesn't raise tuition, the community college will see an increase of 7.8 percent—or $1,009,038—in its base budget.
"And with this historic investment, our public colleges and universities will once again freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates, including those here. Once again Missouri students won't pay a penny more in tuition," he said.
Nixon’s proposed budget also includes increases for three scholarship programs in the state: the A+ program, Access Missouri and Bright Flight.
Nixon also fielded questions from reporters. One was about his reaction to President Obama's approval of a federal disaster declaration for Missouri.
Nixon said since public assistance has already been secured, this is an important next step in the recovery effort.
“Getting individual assistance will help folks that aren’t insured to get up to $33,000 in types of services, whether it’s rental or food or help to get a job. That’s really going to help some folks,” he said.
Nixon also discussed the state's transportation issues. According to Nixon, those who use Missouri roads are the ones who should pay for them. He said that’s why, a couple of years ago, he was against a sales tax increase. He said a bill by Republican Senator Dan Libla (LIE-bluh) of Poplar Bluff that would add two cents to the diesel and gasoline fuel tax is a good solution to the lack of funds for transportation.
"I think that's the best way to go right now to get some of the down payments we need for bridges that are rickety, for roads that need help. And I think this is a time, with gas prices as low as they are, to make that investment," he said.
Nixon said he disagrees with those who want to take money from the state’s general revenues for transportation. He said that’s not a long-term strategy—it’s “just an excuse not to face the needs we have.
Nixon was also asked his opinion of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Nixon made it clear that he doesn’t think Missourians would support the senator from Vermont.
"Democrats or Republicans, I don't think we're socialists here in our state," he said.
He said Sanders isn’t in the mainstream, but he’s “an affable guy.” He joked that anyone has the right to run.
"This is a year in which there are a wide range of folks out there--a wide range of hairstyles," he said. (laughter)
Nixon said he believes in capitalism, and he pointed out that Missouri led the nation last year in start-up businesses. He said he doesn’t believe Sanders’ philosophical views are right for the state.