Nixon’s State of the State Address receives negative response from GOP leaders

By Josie Butler

JEFFERSON CITY — Following the annual State of the State Address last week, Missouri GOP leaders voiced concerns over increased funding to education and Medicaid expansion outlined in Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed budget.

“I thought there was a bit of rhetoric in parts of his speech, and to a degree maybe a condescending tone,” Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, said following the address.

Nixon’s proposed budget focuses heavily on education funding, primarily higher education and K-12. He proposes allocating an additional $493 million toward education, from preschool to graduate school. The budget proposes $278 million increase in funding to the K-12 foundation formula, half the amount needed for full funding.

For higher education, Nixon’s budget adds additional funding to Missouri scholarships such as Access Missouri, Bright Flight and the A-Plus Program. He also said he has called on four-year institutions to freeze tuition rates for undergraduates.

Funding for colleges and universities in the state would be awarded based on performance.

As Nixon announced his education funding proposals, GOP members remained seated while Democrats stood and applauded loudly.

Following the address, Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said he would prefer Nixon propose legislation to improve the education system rather than “throw more money at the problem.”

Nixon also addressed the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri. He said the most significant improvement that could be made to the wellbeing of the state is Medicaid expansion, and he called on the General Assembly to pass it this year.

He labeled the implementation of the federal health care act “abysmal,” which received loud applause from the GOP side of the chamber. Nixon continued, however, and said rejecting Medicaid would not fix the problems.