Gov. Jay Nixon and House and Senate leaders are squabbling over how to approach Missouri's transportation needs.
Nixon, a Democrat, and some Republican lawmakers want to raise the state's fuel tax to help fund roads and bridges, but GOP leaders oppose tax hikes and want to shift state funding to transportation from other programs, including welfare.
Nixon strongly condemned that option, calling it a "budget gimmick."
"Saying that we're going to take some piece of the pie and stick it that way, out of other budgets like mental health or colleges or K-12 education … they're clearly searching for excuses," Nixon said.
Nixon made those comments from Peru, speaking via video conference to journalists gathered at the Governor's Mansion for an annual event hosted by The Associated Press and the Missouri Press Association.
House Speaker Todd Richardson disagreed, saying that they want to spend tax dollars "as wisely as we can."
"If you look at the growth in Medicaid spending, over the seven years of the Nixon administration, we've had 26 percent growth in Medicaid spending out of general revenue, while the state's economy has only been growing by 3.7 percent, or a little under 4 (percent) … and we've thought for some time that it's important to try to make that program more efficient, not only because we can save some money by making it more efficient, but also we think we can improve outcomes…but (for) anybody to suggest that we're going to build roads on the backs of the poor is trying to create a political argument when we need really serious policy discussions and serious solutions."
Richardson wants to revive MoDOT's cost-share programs for road and bridge projects across the state, which he called for last month in the official Republican response to Nixon's State of the State Address.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport