Nixon proposes education budget cuts, welfare increases

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has proposed a budget cut exceeding 9 percent for public higher education for the fiscal year that will begin in July.

Primary and secondary education would see a 4-percent cut under the governor’s spending plan presented to lawmakers Wednesday night.

Administration officials had been warning for some time that deep cuts would have to be made in the state’s budget because of reduced federal funds.

The state’s Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for the lower income would enjoy one of the biggest increases under the governor’s plan — $490 million more or slightly less than a 7.5-percent increase.

In his State of the State address to legislators, Nixon made no direct reference to the specific education cuts. But he did talk about the general cuts he has had to make in Missouri’s budget during his two years as governor and the ability to avoid tax increases.

“All across state government, a leaner workforce is doing more with less,” Nixon said. “These decisions are never easy, but they are necessary. And because we’ve been frugal, we have money to invest in the things that matter most to Missourians: jobs, education, health care and law enforcement.”

The legislature’s top Republican withheld direct criticism of the governor’s budget, saying he needed more time to study Nixon’s proposals. But House Speaker Steve Tilley noted that the new federal health law restricted the state from making cuts in Medicaid. Medicaid coverage is a major component of the federal law’s objective to assure health care coverage.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said that under that law, Missouri would lose all federal Medicaid funds — more than $3 billion — if it reduced Medicaid eligibility.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder leveled a series of charges against Nixon in the formal GOP response to the governor’s State of the State address Wednesday.

While the governor described an economy in recovery, Kinder said, “Our state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, too many Missourians can’t find work, and the state is facing yet another round of severe budget cuts and reductions in basic services.”

Kinder accused the governor of failing to take leadership to bring jobs to the Missouri — spending his time, instead, on traveling around the state.

“Enough of the silence. Enough of the unnecessary trips on the state plane. Enough of the showboating and grandstanding. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work,” Kinder said.

Nixon in his address proclaimed Missouri’s economy had begun to turn around.

“There are already signs that our hard work and fiscal discipline are paying off. The number of Missourians filing new unemployment claims is down 17 percent, year over year. Personal income grew last year, and is expected to keep on growing this year. November and December revenues were up, indicating that people are cautiously beginning to spend,” Nixon said.

— Missouri Digital News