Nixon outlines agenda in address to General Assembly
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Nixon outlines agenda in address to General Assembly

Date: January 21, 2015
By: Matt Kalish
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - It was much of the same old song and dance from Gov. Jay Nixon during Wednesday night's State of the State address.

He covered Medicaid expansion, ethics reform, and an increase in funding for education, just as he did in 2014 and 2013.

But early in his address to the packed House Chamber, Nixon touched on an issue critics have pounded him on the past few years that's been missing from past State of the State addresses.

"Rumor has it that I don't spend enough time on the third floor," He said. "I hear you. And I'll be coming around more often."

House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said many of the bills Nixon referenced when talking about changes to police departments or municipal court reform will be seen in committees or are already there.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, has been a frequent critic of Nixon's policy towards minorities and how he handled the response to the shooting death of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown but is behind several bills Nixon highlighted in his address.

Nasheed, however, was not Nixon's biggest fan at the end of the day.

"He talks the talk but he doesn't walk the walk," she said. "It's time for him to go."

She wasn't the only one unhappy with Nixon. Staff said Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis City, left halfway through the speech.

Republican leaders were not as unhappy with Nixon as Nasheed and Chappelle-Nadal were, but there seemed to be little support for some of Nixon's other proposals.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, was skeptical a proposed toll road on Interstate 70 or a gas tax increase could pass the Senate.

"At the end of the day, where's the public support?" Dempsey said . He also cited the failed ballot measure from August 2014 which would have increased the state's sales tax to pay for infrastructure improvements as something that was a waste of time.

Diehl agreed with Dempsey on the idea of a tollroad, but was critical of another theme consistent in Nixon's speech: a lack of concrete plans when it comes to transportation.

"I didn't hear any specific proposals tonight," Diehl said. "Once again, we've heard no proposal from the governor on what tolls would be, how much money it would generate, how maintenance would be handled."

Nixon also called on lawmakers to expand Medicaid and said funds used from the expansion would go towards funding higher education,  a move which didn't go very far with Diehl.

"It's the same old story," he said. "He's been doing that every single year we've been up here in the General Assembly. Making promises to schools and the education system using money that's not there."

One proposal mentioned by Nixon during his address was a proposal to expand Medicaid to cover veterans, a bill already supported by Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City. A full-scale expansion of Medicaid is widely considered dead-on-arrival in both the House and Senate.

Nixon also highlighted his commitment to protecting the state's agriculture industry and said he'll be leading a delegation to Cuba to promote trade with the island nation. He did not however endorse legislation currently moving through both the House and the Senate that would offer incentives to keep dairy farmers in business.

Similar legislation died last year after a vote to override Nixon's veto failed by a single vote.

Staff from both the House Budget Committee and Senate Appropriations will review Nixon's budget, which was also released today, over the next few days. On the Senate side, hearings with department leaders have been on-going in the Appropriations Committee. The House Budget Committee is expected to start holding formal hearings over the next few weeks. 


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