January 24, 2014

Meet Sen. Ryan Silvey, the thorn in Gov. Jay Nixon’s big toe

The Kansas City Republican has challenged the Democratic governor of Missouri repeatedly since Nixon took office in 2009.

The words were barely out of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s mouth in his State of the State address this week when Sen. Ryan Silvey took to Twitter.

“It's easy to say you have a balanced budget when you just make up the number you’re balancing to,” the Kansas City Republican wrote.

A few minutes later, Silvey noted how much he hates it when politicians — Nixon or anybody else — “quote Scripture out of context to make a political point.”

Then came the crowning blow: “They should really change the name of this speech to the ‘Pandering to the State Address.’ It would be more intellectually honest.”

Just 37, Silvey has been around. He is already a 10-year legislative veteran with a stint as House budget chairman under his belt. He knows where the money is and how it’s appropriated.

That’s why he’s so chippy about Nixon. He believes the two-term Democratic governor — Silvey calls him “King Jay” — has continually usurped spending protocols to bolster his political standing.

Nixon is wrong, Silvey says, when he bills numerous state departments for his travel so spending out of the governor’s office never appears bloated.

When Nixon singlehandedly refuses to release dollars that lawmakers have approved, Silvey moans. “Mind-blowing,” he said about one 2012 instance.

Nixon insists the state constitution gives him that authority, but even some Democrats shake their heads.

In the weeks after Nixon’s re-election in 2012, his administration bought a $5.6 million airplane that Silvey couldn’t stomach.

“At a time when the governor has been withholding millions of dollars from the budget, how do we have enough money to buy a new plane?” he asked.

Silvey has gone toe to toe with Nixon over aid to the blind, over funding for Parents as Teachers, over higher ed spending and over what Silvey calls Nixon’s irritating tendency to remain out of the legislative fray until it’s too late to have an impact.

He has become Nixon’s critic in chief, a fact of life that’s caused some frustration inside Nixon’s office.

Silvey insists that it’s nothing personal, that the two have friendly chats. It’s just that Nixon, in his view, places the executive branch atop the legislative.

“It’s his absolute disregard for checks and balances that rubs me the worst,” Silvey said.

His north-of-the-river district went for Nixon in 2012, so Silvey insists he doesn’t get much political bang for all his carping.

But don’t expect him to quiet down anytime soon.

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