Barbara Shelly

Five signs that Gov. Jay Nixon really is a Democrat

Updated: 2014-01-22T21:08:17Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his most combative State of the State Speech yet Tuesday night.

No more tiptoeing around and blurring the political lines in hopes of securing either Republican votes or cooperation from GOP lawmakers.

Key leaders of the House and Senate are eyeing Republican primaries and have no intention of playing nice with the Democratic governor. Politics aside, many GOP leaders don’t especially like Nixon and they disagree philosophically with a lot of what he wants. So Nixon has planted both feet in Democratic soil.

Some examples:

• His budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 puts an additional $278 million into elementary and secondary education. Democratic constituencies — along with educators and parents — have argued for years that Missouri isn’t funding schools adequately. Nixon’s proposed amount would go halfway toward closing the gap, although it is likely to be reduced by the GOP-controlled legislature.

• Nixon framed the choice as one of either tax cuts — a Republican priority — or well-funded schools. “There are those who feel that instead of fully funding our schools, we should pull money out of our classrooms in order to experiment with our tax code,” is how he put it.

• The governor spent considerable time defending teachers and taking aim at Republican proposals affecting them. “...every year, there are some who believe the way to build up our schools is to tear down our teachers — trying to cut their pay, or reduce their retirement benefits or threaten their job security,” he said. “That simply needs to stop.”

• Nixon made a point of calling for protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

• And, he made another robust case for Medicaid expansion.

Nixon received his only enthusiastic round of applause from Republicans when he said, “We all know there are problems with Obamacare, and Washington’s implementation of it has been abysmal.” He quickly followed up, though, with a Democratic crowd-pleaser: “But rejecting Medicaid won’t fix any of those things. It won’t keep Missourians from having to pay federal taxes, or exempt our businesses from new requirements under the law.”

The governor’s feisty speech was quickly followed by an equally combative rebuttal from House Speaker Tim Jones. The gist of which was, “no way, no how.” But Nixon didn’t get much from Jones and the Republicans when he was conciliatory, so at least this year he won some points from his own party.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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