JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – During Gov. Jay Nixon’s final State of the State speech Wednesday evening, Nixon emphasized that his seven years in office thus far have brought economic growth and stability to Missouri, and he urged the state legislature to increase funding for mental health services, education, and transportation.
For Republican leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly, those calls rang hollow.
“I think we heard more of a victory lap tonight than we heard any real recipe for how we move the state forward,” Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said. “We’ll look for the opportunities where we can work with the governor in the days ahead, but I think tonight’s speech was certainly more focused on where we’ve been than where we’re going.”
However, President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was a bit more generous in his assessment of the speech.
“He’s been there eight years, that’s some sort of victory,” Richard said. “You’ve got to give the guy credit. He is the governor, and the Speaker and I do respect the fact that he wants to accept our perfect bond rating.”
However, Richard also noted that both chambers would have to focus on Nixon’s budget requests before granting him too much credit.
One of the budget chairs, Senate Budget Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, was incensed at the $496 million dollar supplemental budget Nixon announced just minutes before the speech, which Schaefer noted would mainly go towards welfare, as well as increased spending in Nixon’s latest budget proposal.
“The first thing that we see in this budget is its astronomical spending growth,” he said. “From what I’ve seen so far, this is the largest spending increase this governor has proposed.”
Schaefer also found that Nixon’s call for increased funding into mental health was hypocritical when Nixon withheld funds from those programs with last fiscal year’s budget.
“The Missouri legislature put $70 million for new mental health programs in this years budget to start Jan. 1,” Schaefer said. “The governor won’t release that money. Now the governor turns around and says, ‘Hey, I want to do what you did in this year’s budget, but wouldn’t fund, but now I want to do it in this year’s budget.’ I think you’re going to find a lot of opposition because that’s something we funded this year that the governor won’t put the money in.”
Schaefer noted that much money had to come from somewhere, and Richardson decried the economic growth that Nixon touted in his speech.
“I don’t think the Governor spent hardly any time … talking about how we’re going to move Missouri’s economy forward. Despite the fact that unemployment’s low, wage growth is stagnant.”
Nixon also gave a large portion of his speech to LGBT rights in his speech and urged the House and Senate, once again, to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA).
Richard said assuredly that such a measure, which has been sponsored by Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, would not make it out of his chamber.