State of the State

From Story by Brent Martin, photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI:

AUDIO: 44 min

Governor Nixon acknowledge times are tough, but asserted he was an optimist in urging the General Assembly to fight every day for every job in an effort to turn the state economy around.

In fact, Nixon asserted that the economy is turning, albeit slowly, in his third State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature.

Nixon emphasized economic development in an address that lasted nearly 45 minutes and was interrupted numerous times, even though the Democrat faced a legislature more firmly in the hands of Republicans now than in the previous two times he delivered the annual message. Nixon credit bipartisan work between his administration and the legislature for keeping the budget in balance and avoiding deep budget deficit that are plaguing other states.

The governor said the state would continue to emphasize manufacturing. His speech capitalized on the recent announce that Ford Motor Company plans to take advantage of state tax breaks to keep its Claycomo assembly plant at full production in Kansas City, which Nixon said would benefit parts plants throughout the state.

“Ford’s commitment will help keep thousands of hard-working Missourians on the job at Claycomo, and at automotive suppliers in Hannibal, Nixa, Perryville, Joplin, Mexico and every corner of our state,” Nixon told the legislature.

Nixon proposed a sharpening of the state’s economic development tools by unveiling his Compete Missouri job initiative. The initiative proposes consolidating six business incentives into one, rolling three worker training programs into one and providing $5 million for job training.

“That’s good for business, good for our workers and great for our economy,” Nixon stated.

Nixon reiterated his support for a second commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri.

“Missouri has some of the lowest electric rates in the nation,” Nixon said. “That’s attractive to businesses and families. But as our energy needs grow, we need to be looking now for new sources of clean, abundant and affordable power.”

Nixon’s contention that he proposes to keep state funding for public schools flat has already raised some eyebrows among legislators. The governor has proposed that local school districts carry over a total of $112 million in federal funds provided this year into the next budget year, allowing him to trim that amount in his proposed appropriations for education. Schools received a total of $189 million from the federal government this fiscal year.

The governor made only brief mention of the bi-partisan tax credit commission that he appointed to review the state’s 61 tax credit programs and recommend changes, stating merely, “I ask the members of the legislature to allow this commission to present its recommendations at hearings in the House and Senate. We should give the commission’s report serious and full consideration.”

Nixon asked lawmakers to extend the Missouri Rx program that provides a break on prescription costs to senior citizens.

A call to return to ethics reform likely will meet a rebuff from the legislature. Nixon called again to reinstate campaign contribution limits.

“Right now, anyone can write a check for any amount of money, and tip the balance of an election,” Nixon said. “That is corrosive to our democracy.”

Nixon has long advocated campaign contribution limits. The legislature has just as adamantly opposed them.

In a nod to the political gulf that separates him and the legislature, Nixon trumpeted bipartisanship, stating that he and the legislators share common values and common goals.

“For as long as I’ve been a public servant, as a state senator, as attorney general and now, as your governor, my approach has been pretty simple,” Nixon told the legislature. “Bring folks together. Hash things out. Find solutions.”

In trying to strike a bipartisan tone, Nixon closed with a quote from Senator Bond, the Republican who retired from public service after serving 40 years in elective office, who urged politicians to remember that there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy.

“In the days and weeks ahead, let us take those words to heart, and act on them in good faith,” Nixon stated.

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