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Government, Politics & Issues

Nixon expected to highlight Medicaid, education in State of State address; Jones to give response

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 28, 2013 - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to renew his call for expanding Missouri’s Medicaid program during his State of the State address to be delivered at 7 p.m. tonight in the state Capitol’s House chambers.

And state House Speaker Tim Jones, who is delivering the GOP response, is expected to reaffirm his party’s opposition.

Both speeches will be aired on St. Louis Public Radio (90.7 FM). Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Both also can be viewed on the internet.

Nixon, a Democrat, will address many of Missouri’s 197 members of the state House and Senate during the annual unveiling of the governor’s budget, traditionally laid out during the State of the State.

Nixon and his budget chief, Linda Luebbering, will hold press briefings prior to the speech, in which both will likely lay out the specifics of the broad spending plans that the governor is expected to highlight.

The governor and his staff have offered few hints, but based on his Jan. 14 inaugural address, and his recent travels around the state, Nixon appears likely to highlight his support of the Medicaid expansion recommended by the federal Affordable Care Act.

He also is expected to highlight his recent proposals calling for more spending on preschool and pre-kindergarten programs, including Missouri’s Early Head Start program.

Dueling visions for increase in state income

Nixon and his allies appear to be emboldened by the state’s improved economic climate, which is beginning to show up with more revenue into the state’s coffers.  Bipartisan official projections for the coming fiscal year (FY2014) call for the state’s general-revenue collections to reach $7.929 billion, up $237 million from the current fiscal year.

But some Republican legislators have other designs on that money, and they are proposing to phase out the state’s corporate income tax, which now brings in close to $500 million a year.

Under the Medicaid expansion, the federal government would pay for the first three years of the state’s expansion, which is expected to add more than 200,000 Missourians to the Medicaid roles because eligibility standards would be changed. The state would then gradually take over 10 percent of the expansion cost during a multi-year phase in.

The Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry are among the backers of the expansion. The free-market Show Me Institute, backed by wealthy financier and political donor Rex Sinquefield, is among the opponents.

Jones, R-Eureka, and other GOP legislative leaders also object to the expansion, contending that A) neither the state nor the federal government can afford the added spending and B) government should not have such a large role in health care.

Jones is likely to highlight those concerns in his response to be aired right after Nixon’s address.

Jones also may emphasize his economic proposals, which include revamping Missouri’s workers compensation programs and curbing union rights in the workplace.

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