Gov. Jay Nixon: Gamblers and legislature shortchanged schools

05/21/2014 7:00 AM

07/23/2014 5:19 PM

Based on remarks from Gov. Jay Nixon today during a visit to Kansas City I’d say relationships between the Democratic governor and the Republican-dominated General Assembly are pretty much at rock bottom.

In remarks after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new auto manufacturing plant built by Grupo Antolin of Spain, Nixon indicated that he’d be very busy this summer vetoing bills and undoing the damage that the legislature inflicted upon the newly passed 2015 budget by passing at least $263 million and possibly more than $400 million worth of tax breaks in the last eight hours of the session.

The governor also blamed the legislature for forcing him to withhold $35.1 million from this year’s education budget to compensate for insufficient revenue from the state’s riverboat casinos and lottery. He had warned lawmakers in a memo that gambling funds were coming in below expectations, Nixon said, but they only gave him half of the $44 million in supplemental funds he had requested.

“The legislature made a specific choice not to fund education,” Nixon said.

Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the governor for withholding the money they appropriate, especially funds for schools. They claim he’s circumventing the legislature’s appropriations responsibility. But if the money doesn’t roll in, the administration doesn’t have it to dole out.

This of course makes one question the wisdom of funding schools partly with gambling revenues. It’s bad when a state is reduced to hoping more gamblers get to the casino so that schools can meet expenses.

Right now Missouri’s budget picture looks rather grim. Revenues other than gambling funds are anemic. It really wasn’t a great time for the legislature to pass special-interest tax breaks.

On the plus side, though, the Grupo Antolin plant is expected to add 118 good-paying jobs over the next two years. Company officials said they chose Kansas City because they liked Missouri’s business climate and because they expect Ford’s Claycomo plant to be the main customer for their auto parts. Here’s more about the company and its investment in Kansas City’s East Bottoms.

Missouri’s auto manufacturing and supply industry is ramping up nicely, in part due to the incentive package the legislature passed four years ago. That package was strategic and thoughtful, very unlike the “willy-nilly orgy of tax breaks” passed last week, as this Kansas City Star editorial put it.

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