Steve Kraske

Nixon and General Assembly gear up for an unproductive battle in 2014

Updated: 2014-01-03T22:28:32Z

By STEVE KRASKE

The Kansas City Star

Never before in Jay Nixon’s five years as governor has a legislative session begun with him and Missouri GOP legislative leaders disagreeing so vehemently on priorities.

Nixon calls for Medicaid expansion. He almost certainly won’t get it.

Republicans want tax cuts. No thanks, Nixon says.

The Democratic governor seeks caps on how much people can donate to candidates. Republicans surely won’t go there.

Republicans talk about cracking down on labor unions and turning Missouri into a right-to-work state. No way, no how Nixon lets that happen.

It’s like Nixon and GOP leaders hail from different planets.

Here’s one more: Nixon advocates more money for schools and higher education. Republicans might go along with some of that, but their interest in tax cuts will hinder them.

Lawmakers from both parties already are forecasting a giant stalemate. A “throwaway session” is how one Kansas City Democrat put it.

What might happen that anyone around here will notice? Perhaps a change to a law that requires unaccredited school districts — such as Kansas City’s — to pay for the transportation and tuition of students who transfer to accredited districts. The law threatens to sink the Kansas City district just as surely as it’s sunk one in St. Louis.

At play are a series of political dynamics that are clouding the typical early optimism.

• Nixon is back acting like a Democrat again. In his first term, it was easy to confuse the former four-term attorney general for a Republican. The GOP found it tough at times to criticize a governor who was as conservative as many Republicans.

That approach helped Nixon to an easy 2012 re-election.

Now that the pressure to win a second term is off, Nixon is pushing more reliably Democratic initiatives that, cynics say, are geared to help him win a Cabinet post under a new Democratic president come 2017.

• House Speaker Tim Jones is running for statewide office. Jones, a Republican, wants to be the state’s next attorney general. That suggests he won’t want limits on campaign donations as he gears up. It also suggests he’ll veer to the right to underscore his conservative bona fides and get him through a primary.

Case in point: No way he lets Medicaid expansion get too far lest he be labeled as friendly to Obamacare, which remains wildly unpopular in Missouri.

• This is an election year for the Missouri House and half the Senate. Election years are notoriously unproductive.

A throwaway session? That would be a good bet.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.

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