Missouri State of the State Highlights
Tonight Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon gave his annual speech to the Missouri General Assembly - the State of the State address.
We'll have a full report from our statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin tomorrow during Morning Edition, but here are the highlights of tonight's event and corresponding issues, along with key points from the Republican response given by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
- On Jobs: The governor repeated the line "every day, every job" several times, referring to his approach on tackling the issue of job creation. He also mentioned yesterday's announcement that Ford will expand its Claycomo, Mo. plant, keeping thousands of jobs in Missouri.
- On K-12 Education: Nixon proposed flat funding for K-12 schools. The Associated Press reported that a budget plan released Wednesday by Nixon would provide K-12 schools an additional $112 million during the current year, thanks to an influx of federal money. But it would cut schools by $112 million next year.
- On Higher Education: The widely-expected cut to higher education was given a number today. That number? 7 percent. That's a $64 million cut. The reduction is on top of a $50 million cut made during the current year to colleges and universities.
- On Ethics Reform: "We need to set strict limits on campaign contributions that are undermining the sovereignty of the people, and subverting the fundamental principle of free and fair elections," Nixon said.
- On the Total State Budget: Nixon was relatively mum on specifics during his remarks, but the Associated Press reports that Nixon has proposed a $23.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. He acknowledged during his address that "times are tough." But he said he remains optimistic about Missouri's economy.
- On Taxes: The governor stated his pledge not to raise taxes. Today, Nixon announced his proposal for a "tax amnesty" program for delinquent taxpayers. The "amnesty" period would be for people who owe the state money but have not yet been cited by the Department of Revenue. If the businesses or individuals pay up, they can avoid penalties and be charged only the interest they otherwise would otherwise owe, according to the Associated Press. The governor's budget assumes the program will bring in $20 million that otherwise would not have been paid.
The Republican response delivered by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was in a slightly different format this year. The "speech" consisted mostly of prepared responses to questions previously solicited on Twitter and Facebook from constituents.
Like the Governor, Kinder mentioned education, saying "We cannot play games with school funding, and the governor should be ashamed of himself."
Kinder also directly addressed Nixon's activities as governor, saying that Nixon is not enough of a "lobbyist" for the state:
"Sure, he loves the perks of the job, the ribbon cuttings, the prime seats at sporting events, the taxpayer-funded airplane, but the governor is nowhere to be found on the troubles facing our state."
Earlier this week, Missouri House leaders targeted Nixon's travel billing, saying that his practice of using funds from various state agencies for airplane flights should instead be funded solely by the Governor's office.