Nixon spotlights Northwest, Kawasaki vets’ program

By TONY BROWN News editor
Maryville Daily Forum

Posted on Dec 3, 2015

Gov. Jay Nixon visited Northwest Missouri State University on Wednesday to officially announce more than $6.8 million in state “deferred maintenance” funding awarded earlier this fall that will be used to improve campus facilities.

In addition, Nixon also visited the Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. plant here where he presented company officials with the Flag of Freedom award for participating in a state program designed to provide private-sector jobs for veterans.

The additional Northwest funds, raised through the sale of bonds, is part of a so-called $200 million “Building Affordability” initiative approved by the General Assembly during its 2015 session.

“We are proud to invest in higher education through Building Affordability so that Missouri colleges and universities can make needed improvements without raising tuition,” Nixon said.

“The bipartisan $200 million Building Affordability initiative will help make sure students are learning in state-of-the-art facilities that prepare them for the jobs of the future while keeping Missouri a leader in college affordability.”

Nixon called public investment in education at all levels “the best economic development tool there is,” and claimed that helping colleges and universities upgrade their campuses allows schools to keep student costs low.

“Every dollar spent on Building Affordability is literally a dollar colleges and universities don’t have to raise tuition,” he said.

Northwest is using its share of the bond proceeds to replace windows and upgrade electrical systems at several buildings, including Brown Education Hall, Martindale Hall, the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building, B.D. Owens Library, Colden Hal, the Administration Building, and the 140-year-old Gaunt House, which serves as the university president’s official residence.

Building Affordability is a component of Build Missouri, a capital improvements initiative that will fund nearly 500 projects statewide. The program provides for repairs and renovations at veterans homes, conservation areas, state parks, and Highway Patrol facilities in addition to college and university campuses.

It also contains dollars for the completion of a new mental hospital in Fulton.

Nixon said the financing package was made possible by fiscal discipline in the wake of a historic economic downturn beginning in 2008.

The governor credited both the Legislature and his administration with having the foresight to take advantage of low interest rates during the recession in order to pay down public debt at a time when other states where borrowing heavily in order to bridge severe budget shortfalls.

Based on current projections, Nixon said, Missouri will have lower levels of state-issued bonding debt at the end of his second term in January 2017 than when he first took office seven years ago.

Nixon also boasted that his administration’s tough stance on spending is responsible for Missouri’s continued AAA credit rating, which allows the state, as well as public institutions like Northwest, to borrow money at lower rates.

Lauding Northwest as a model of affordability, Nixon cited the most recent report on campus pricing by The College Board, which he said placed Missouri No. 1 nationally in terms of holding down tuition increases at public universities over the past six years.

Nixon said the state’s efforts to keep student costs under control would continue next year if the Legislature signs off on his proposal to increase funding for colleges and universities by 6 percent in 2016-2017 in exchange for a tuition freeze.

The proposal provides a performance-based $55.7 million increase in spending that would bring the state’s higher education budget to just under $1 billion and provide $9.2 million in new dollars for programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Northwest President John Jasinski praised the governor for making higher education “a linchpin of his budget for this next fiscal year” and asking the General Assembly to raise state spending on college and university campuses to what would be an all-time high.

At Kawasaki, Nixon toured the production floor and addressed a group of veterans who currently work at the plant.

He also presented Kawasaki officials with a plaque containing a small uniform flag worn in combat by Lt. Col. Leif Thompson, a pilot with the U.S. Army National Guard who flew missions in Afghanistan.

The plaque notes Kawasaki’s participation in Show-Me Heroes, a state program established in 2010 that seeks to match veterans with employers through local Missouri Career Center offices.

Maryville’s Kawasaki plant was one of the first employers in the state to join the program and has since provided jobs to about 30 former U.S. military personnel.

According to the governor’s office, more than 4,500 Missouri businesses have taken the “Show-Me Heroes pledge” resulting in the hiring nearly 8,000 veterans over the past six years.

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