Gov. Jay Nixon laid out his plans for the state in 2013 with some bold proposals that could find serious opposition in the supermajority Republican General Assembly.
The governor tempered that boldness with a genuine effort to embrace the legislature, including it in what he described as successes of the previous years. “Together, we balanced the budget while holding the line on taxes,” said Nixon, who used “we” in nearly every sentence that described successes ranging from the state’s triple A credit rating to adding 40,000 jobs in 2012.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones was not swayed, however, when it came to the governor’s grand plans or his attempts at bipartisan rhetoric. The governor’s call for an increase in education funding — from early childhood to higher education — is laudable, but we take to heart the Republican leader’s point that it has been the governor who has consistently cut higher ed funding. We hope that his commitment is genuine, and we are especially pleased with the increase in early childhood education funding.
While bipartisan agreement on education is possible, the governor’s plan to include funding for an expansion of Medicaid in the budget is not likely to go far — something Jones all but guaranteed. We support Nixon’s plan, including a proviso that allows the state to opt out of the expansion if the federal government doesn’t keep its word on funding. But we appreciate Springfield Rep. Elijah Haahr’s concern that pulling back after expanding coverage could be even more of an issue for those 30,000 Missourians who would be added to the rolls.
Expanding care for people with mental illnesses is a smart way to get ahead of the president’s efforts in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, although we doubt that the $10 million the governor proposed would go far. However, expanding funding for family violence shelters is likely to save more lives because those children are at high risk of being hurt, sexually abused and ultimately mentally ill.
Then we come to the governor’s plan to pay for all of this — issuing bonds, a method used by both Democratic and Republican governors before him. He’s right that this is a great time to borrow, and his plan to offset the cost by reforming our tax credit program is solid — Republicans have already been working on it.
We are disappointed that Jones did not offer a direct response to the plan. If the governor’s budget hinges on that point, we need to know if Republicans are willing to support it.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.