The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from Gov. Nixon’s Budget

Rep. Jay Barnes’ Capitol Report, Friday, January 24, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Gov. Nixon’s Unbalanced Budget Proposal

Ever spent an hour filling up a grocery cart only to discover at checkout that you forgot your wallet at home? That’s the situation that came to mind Tuesday while listening to Gov. Nixon’s State of the State address. In total, Gov. Nixon promised $493 million in new education funding. Unfortunately, this budget is just like the grocery cart filled on an empty stomach – with no wallet in sight. While Gov. Nixon touts our state’s AAA credit rating, this year’s budget proposal is $310 million in the red.

Gov. Nixon has picked up many tricks in his 27 year political career. As governor, he knows there’s little downside to proposing an unbalanced budget. It puts the legislature in a box: we can either make the tough choices necessary to pass a balanced budget; or, we can pass his unbalanced budget.

If we make the tough choices, Gov. Nixon will use his bully pulpit to blame Republicans for not meeting his impossible and irresponsible education funding promises. If we pass his unbalanced proposal, we abdicate our constitutional duty and allow Gov. Nixon to use the withholding power to usurp the budget responsibilities assigned to the legislature by the state constitution.

For me, the choice is easy. The legislature must meet our constitutional responsibility to fix Gov. Nixon’s unbalanced budget proposal – even if it requires difficult decisions, and even though it’s a political set-up.

A quick rundown:

The Good - Gov. Nixon proposed a 3 percent pay raise, renewal of the state match for deferred compensation, and steady health insurance premiums for state employees. These are much needed improvements and have my full support. Gov. Nixon’s call for increased education funding also has my support – but those increases must be measured by reality and coupled with real accountability, not the empty soundbites offered by Gov. Nixon in Tuesday’s speech.

The Bad - Gov. Nixon’s budget bets on the passage of Medicaid and tax amnesty legislation which may – or may not – happen. This adds approximately $150 million in revenues to the bottom line, but requires legislative action that is iffy at this point. Gov. Nixon also abandoned the consensus revenue estimate generated by the House, Senate, and non-partisan economists from Mizzou. This gubernatorial accounting convenience added another $160 million in hypothetical revenues to the bottom line and led Sen. Budget Chairman Kurt Schaefer to call Gov. Nixon’s budget “absolute political fiction.”

The Ugly - Gov. Nixon proposed $350k to create a state office in Washington, D.C., but we already have eight members of Congress and two Senators ready, willing, and able to represent Missourians there. We don’t need a state office on top.

Supporting State Employees Who Care for Foster Children
Every child deserves a chance and a loving environment. Far too often, however, children in foster care never find a stable home. I’ve sponsored House Bill 1054 to provide support to state employees who volunteer to care for foster children by making shared-leave time available for foster children on the same terms that it’s available for adopted or step-children. The bill was heard Tuesday in a House committee and I’m hopeful that it will be put on fast-track status.
Investing in Lincoln University
On Monday, a group of local leaders joined Sen. Kehoe and Gov. Nixon for the announcement of a proposed $10 million investment to re-model the current, but soon to be “old” St. Mary’s to convert it to use for Lincoln’s nursing program, culinary arts, state offices, and other potential uses. As Sen. Kehoe explained, St. Mary’s is more than just a building. It’s a cornerstone of the community where many of us have our most precious memories. It’s the place where all of my children were born. As St. Mary’s moves into a new facility, it’s important that we find a great use for the historic campus.Monday’s announcement is a good investment for Missouri and great news for our community. For state taxpayers, it’s an investment in quality health care education at an affordable price. For the community, it will help ensure that the historic property is put to important use for generations to come.