Governor Jay Nixon delivered his annual State of the State Address Tuesday night. He touched briefly on the state budget and other issues, while spending lots of time showcasing his administration’s accomplishments and praising the values of Missouri citizens as he prepares for his re-election bid this fall. St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin recaps the address.
Beginning on a somber note
Nixon began his address by recalling the F-5 tornado in Joplin that killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Governor Nixon paid tribute to the victims and survivors. Then he got into the meat of his address, where he made his pitch to boost the state’s economy.
“That strategy builds on the granite foundation of fiscal discipline that we have laid here in Missouri, by balancing our budget, holding the line on taxes, making government smaller, smarter and more efficient," said Nixon.
Nixon’s budget for next year contains $508 million in cuts. They include:
- Nearly $192 million in reductions to Medicaid
- A $106 million cut to higher education
- Restructuring $41 million worth of debt, and other cuts.
Meanwhile, the Governor is proposing a $5 million increase for K-12 schools.
“For the past three years, even in challenging budget times, we’ve maintained level funding for our K-12 classrooms," said Nixon to applause. "This year, we’re going to take the next step. The budget I present tonight provides record funding for our K-12 classrooms because it’s the right thing to do.”
The $5 million increase still falls short of fully funding the state’s K-12 foundation formula.
Nixon called on lawmakers to restore campaign contribution limits. That likely won’t happen with a GOP-top-heavy General Assembly. And the Governor took a swipe at Republican leaders for not reforming the state’s tax credit system.
“Over the past four years, more than $2 billion in state tax credits have been redeemed," said Nixon."We all know that dollars spent on tax credits are dollars we can’t invest in other critical priorities.”
House and Senate Republicans were unable to compromise last year on the role tax credits should play in the state’s economy, and there’s no indication, so far, that they’ve budged this year. But they put up a united front Tuesday night as two high-ranking Republicans from each chamber delivered the GOP response to the Democratic governor’s address. They took the place of Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, who chose not to challenge Nixon for Governor. Kinder had delivered the last three Republican responses.
Kurt Schaefer of Columbia chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He took the governor to task over education funding.
“Over the past three years, state funding for school districts and teachers has been slashed and underfunded by seven percent, or $232 million, and funding for Missouri’s public higher education institutions and scholarships has been reduced by more than 14 percent," said Schaefer.
House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones criticized Nixon’s handling of Missouri’s economy. He accused the governor of “not doing his homework” prior to announcing incentives for a failed artificial sweetener plant in the town of Moberly.
“The company went bankrupt and the city of Moberly was left with tens of millions of dollars of debt and zero new jobs," Jones said. "Instead of taking responsibility, Jay Nixon pointed fingers and even claimed he doesn’t run his own department.”
Other items in the governor’s budget include the elimination of more than 800 state jobs. But the state workers who remain will be getting a two percent raise one year from now.
Governor Nixon’s entire spending plan for Fiscal Year 2013 comes in at just under $23 billion.