Medicaid Expansion Defeated Again as Missouri House Passes Budget
March 12, 2015

(AP) – A proposed state budget passed Thursday by the Missouri House would increase education spending but provide no money to expand Medicaid eligibility or give state employees a pay raise.

The more than $26 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 now moves to the Senate.

Expansion for Medicaid eligibility, although not included in the budget, dominated debate between the Republican supermajority and Democrats.

GOP House and Senate leaders repeatedly rejected calls from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and members of his party to expand Medicaid eligibility to as many as 300,000 low-income adults under the terms of President Barack Obama’s health care law. An expansion could bring Missouri about $2 billion annually of additional federal Medicaid funding.

But Republican lawmakers haven’t “taken the bait,” said Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob. He said expanding Medicaid could cost the state more money once full federal funding of the program stops in 2016 and states are responsible for paying for a portion of the expenses, eventually 10 percent.

Nixon’s SOTS: A call for “Healing & Hope”
January 22, 2015

(AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon implored lawmakers to embrace policies that “foster healing and hope” Wednesday as he delivered his first State of the State address since the unrest that erupted over the fatal police shooting of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson.

Nixon acknowledged that the death of Michael Brown – and the sometimes violent protests that ensued – had focused the eyes of the nation on Missouri during the past year, prompting discussions about “race and equality, education and economic opportunity, law enforcement and the courts.”

“The legacy of Ferguson will be determined by what we do next to foster healing and hope and the changes we make to strengthen all of our communities,” Nixon said in a nearly 50-minute speech to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The Democratic governor called for an update to Missouri’s law on the police use of deadly force as he outlined an agenda that also includes an increase in funding for public schools, albeit one that would still fall hundreds of millions short of what is considered a fully funded system. Nixon also advocated for the consideration of a gas tax hike or tolls for aging highways, stronger ethics laws and a renewed call to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults.

Nixon’s proposed $26 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year would keep spending relatively flat compared with the current year, a carryover effect from revenues that fell significantly short of expectations last year. He also asked lawmakers to approve $353 million of repairs and renovations at the Capitol, college campuses, state parks and office buildings under a bonding plan that legislators previously authorized.

Nixon has been criticized by some for his handling of the response to Brown’s shooting – first for not acting quickly enough to quell tensions between protesters and heavily armored police in August, and later for not preemptively deploying the National Guard to troubled spots in Ferguson when a grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson was announced in November.

During his remarks Wednesday related to Ferguson, Nixon said there often is “too much fear and too little trust.”

“Some folks feel they have to choose sides: Them or us. Teens or cops. Black or white,” Nixon said. He added: “The truth is real and lasting change is only possible when we stand together.”

As a first step, Nixon encouraged lawmakers to “reform municipal courts,” something Republicans also have embraced, in response to complaints from Ferguson protesters and other St. Louis-area residents about cities that derive a large percentage of their revenues from traffic tickets.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said he also agrees with Nixon that Missouri needs to update its deadly force laws to be brought in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The court had ruled in a Tennessee case a couple of decades ago that deadly force cannot be used against an apparently unarmed fleeing suspect who poses no serious danger to police or others.

Nixon said officials must recruit and train police who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. And he implored lawmakers to “support policies that foster racial understanding,” create economic opportunity and strengthen failing schools.

Many of his suggestions received more applause from Democrats than from Republicans. But GOP lawmakers joined in a standing ovation when Nixon said he was proud of law enforcement officers.

House Speaker John Diehl, who delivered a Republican response speech, accused Nixon of poor leadership during the Ferguson events and pledged that legislators would investigate why the National Guard was not used in Ferguson on the night of the grand jury decision.

“Our governor failed to communicate his polices and fulfill his promises, and Missourians paid the price as Ferguson was looted and destroyed,” Diehl said.

Diehl said the Republican agenda includes removing “those who are capable of earning a living wage” from Missouri’s welfare rolls. He also pledged that lawmakers would pass a bill expanding the availability of charter schools and online schools for students in public schools lacking state accreditation.

Nixon’s budget plan includes a $50 million increase in basic aid for public schools. He said that could be boosted by an additional $79 million if legislators pass several measures to generate revenues, including expanding Medicaid eligibility under the terms of President Barack Obama’s health care law. But such proposals have failed in past years, and Republican legislators appear unlikely to pass them this session.

To fully fund Missouri’s school formula in 2016 would require a $482 million increase to the nearly $3.2 billion in basic aid that schools are due to receive this year.

Some education groups said a $50 million increase wouldn’t be enough to avoid cuts in certain school districts.

“This is going to create problems for our schools. … It could mean teacher layoffs,” said Mike Wood, the government relations director for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he would support an additional $100 million funding increase for public schools.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Flanigan said he has no target yet for how much money he hopes to provide to schools. He said next year’s budget likely will be lean.

“New spending is going to be tough,” Flanigan, R-Carthage, said.

Missouri Budget Finishes Short of Estimate for FY
July 2, 2014

(AP) – Missouri may soon need to dip into its reserves in order to pay its bills.

Figures released Wednesday show that Missouri ended its 2014 fiscal year with a 1 percent decline in revenues compared with the previous year.

But the shortfall is larger when compared to the growth that had been projected. The roughly $8 billion in general revenues was $308 million short of what Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration projected and $241 million short of what the Legislature forecast.

That means the state has started its new fiscal year with less money in the bank than normal.

Nixon budget director Linda Luebbering says the state likely will have to dip into its reserves in July for cash-flow purposes.

Nixon Vetoes or Freezes $1.1 Billion, Silvey Calls It a “Game”
June 24, 2014

Clay County Republican Ryan Silvey, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, accused Governor Jay Nixon of playing “political games’ with his budget vetoes and freezes Tuesday.
The Governor vetoed of froze more than $1.1 in the state budget Tuesday. He said the set of tax breaks and credits passed in the finals hours of the Legislative by the Republican majority were to blame.
Nixon has repeatedly call more than $700 million in last minute tax measures. He frequently calls them, the ‘Friday Favors” because on they were passed on the final day of the session, a Friday.
Nixon says those tax bills put the state budget “dangerously out of balance.”
Silvey said of the tax bills, “these are taxes that we hadn’t collected on a number of things in the past,” he added, “to say we’re giving up revenue we’ve never collected? It’s a political game”.
Nixon also line-item vetoed $100 million of the $114 million in added money for the state’s school foundation formula.
Assistant Democratic Minority Leader, Kansas City’s Gail Beatty, defended the Governor’s actions.
She said he has a constitutional duty to have a balanced budget.
She said, however, she was surprised the Governor did what he did to the education budget.
“I hate that we have to pit our kids against, often times, big business, ”Beatty said.
The Governor said he would restore some of the money that he has restricted now, if the lawmakers sustain his vetoed in September.

Nixon Says More Cuts Could Be Coming as GOP Plots Override
June 12, 2014

(AP) — Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a package of special sales tax breaks Wednesday for Missouri power companies, restaurants, computer data centers and others, setting up another showdown with a Republican-led Legislature that already has triumphed over him on a historic income tax cut.

Nixon denounced the tax break measures as a “grab bag of generous giveaways” providing “secret sweetheart deals” and “special interest favors” that could bust a $425 million hole in the state budget while also jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars of local tax revenues.

While vetoing 10 bills, Nixon also said he would make “dramatic spending reductions” in the coming weeks to guard against the potential for lawmakers to enact the tax breaks by overriding his objections during their September session.

“My vetoes today are the first step toward restoring fiscal sanity to a budget process that has gone off the rails,” Nixon said at a Capitol news conference.

Some Republican lawmakers and business groups immediately vowed to pursue veto overrides. They disputed Nixon’s cost projections and defended the bills as a mixture of important business incentives and mere clarifications of existing tax policies that they contend have been misinterpreted by the courts and Nixon’s administration.

“By vetoing these bills, he has reemphasized the fact that the focus of his tax and spend administration is on growing the size of government rather than growing our economy,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

Republicans hold a two-thirds majority required for veto overrides in the Senate and are one seat short of that threshold in the House. But the GOP is likely to gain seats when special elections are held in August for four vacant House districts.


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