JEFFERSON CITY _ Local legislators lauded Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan's State of the State address Wednesday, citing a one of the highest budget increase recommendations from a governor for higher education in recent years and a new Columbia child advocacy center as its strong points.
In his address to a joint session of the House and Senate, the governor stressed increases in the higher education budget, school violence and his proposed tax cut.
Columbia's legislators say a bigger budget for education is a good idea.
Carnahan's proposal for Missouri's higher education budget would increase state support by 12.7 percent and increase the money given to higher education for onetime technology, community colleges, financial aid, renovations and new construction.
For the University of Missouri's system, the governor's recommendation would provide a 5.2 percent increase in the general operating budget - including $4 million in one-time funds for endowed chairs.
"I'm pleased with the amount of money for the higher education budget," said Sen. Joe Moseley, D-Columbia.
Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, agreed that an increased budget is important to central Missouri.
"Education is an investment." Harlan said. "We need to continue with what we've seen as far as attracting top students and better teachers. Everything else falls into place."
Rep. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, said Carnahan is acting like an education governor. "This is the largest increase in 14 years," Jacob said. "It's the first big step."
Carnahan's plan also called for the expansion of child advocacy centers throughout the state, including one in Columbia. These centers would "serve as safe havens and assessment centers for abused children," Carnahan said.
Moseley said they had been trying for two years to get the authorization to establish the center.
Harlan said he thought the child advocacy center was a good idea.
"Someone needs to look out for our children or they won't have anyone," he said.
And in looking out for Missouri's children, the governor stressed a safe schools initiative that would make violent and disruptive students more accountable for their actions.
"Too many of our students and teachers must step into a combat zone of guns, gangs and drugs whenever they enter the classroom," Carnahan said.
But, local legislators said that school violence in Columbia isn't as serious as it is around the state. And, while around Missouri, other schools are thinking about alternatives for disruptive students, Columbia is already doing just that.
"Alternative schools have worked well." Harlan said. "Many don't know that there's a waiting list to get into Jefferson Junior High School in Columbia. It doesn't serve all the children it needs to serve."
But Jacob said there was more to it than simply punishing problematic students.
"It's how we deal with juvenile disruptions. It's figuring out why this is," Jacob said. "Why are our children hurting other people?"
On a more positive note, local legislators agreed with Carnahan's insistence that the Missouri economy is booming, and said they supported his proposed tax cut.
Republican lawmakers have accused Carnahan of acting like a Republican with his tax-cut proposal. But Jacob had a criticism of his own for the Republicans.
"The Republicans always want to take credit whenever there's something good," Jacob said.
Harlan and Moseley also said the GOP was trying too hard to be critical.
"Frankly, I think the Republicans may be disappointed," Harlan said. "They have no excuses not to support the Governor."