Gov. Nixon promises new spending, sets up budget battle

Nixon's priorities include education, Medicaid, Fulton State Hospital

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - During Tuesday night's State of the State address, Governor Jay Nixon promised lots of new spending, setting up a budget battle with legislative leaders.

Nixon's 2015 budget plans on revenue increasing 5.2% and would utilize an estimates $77 million in savings from the expansion of Medicaid.

But Republican House and Senate leaders told reporters Tuesday night, they were basing budget projections on just a 4.2% revenue increase - a difference of tens of millions of dollars.

When pressed for any sign of a backup plan or compromise plan, budget director Linda Luebbering said only that the governor's projections were moderate and in line with national economists' vision for economic growth.

In his speech to a joint session of the legislature, Nixon advanced two familiar priorities - education funding and Medicaid expansion.

Nixon spent about half of his 55 minute speech talking about the importance of education, announcing that he was budgeting an additional $493 million in 2015.

Of that, $278 million would increase funding to K-12 classrooms. Luebbering said that amount is half the amount to fully fund the so-called "foundation formula."

Nixon also proposed $30 million in extra spending for early childhood education

"It's time we put our money where our campaign brochures are," he told legislators, stressing his education efforts.

Freezing tuition at state universities was also a priority. In the proposed 2015 budget, the University of Missouri would get a slight funding increase to a little more than $441 million.

"Affordability is part of the equation," Nixon said.

State employees would see a three percent pay increase across-the-board in 2015, under the governor's proposal. Some children and youth services workers and nurses at the Fulton State Hospital would see a higher increase because of high turnover.

Ground could be broken on a new Fulton State Hospital as early as 2015, with Nixon proposing appropriations bonds for the $200 million project in Callaway County.

About one-third of the governor's speech was spent talking about Medicaid reform. Nixon pressed for its expansion to 300,000 Missourians last year, but the bill never passed.

He admitted to problems with Obamacare and even called it's implementation, "abysmal." But, he said rejecting Medicaid wouldn't fix any of those problems.

"Here in Missouri, we stood still," Nixon said. "Now we're falling behind."

Nixon added that, since New Year's Day, about $115 million in Missouri tax dollars had been used for health care in other states that had taken the federal money to expand Medicaid programs.

In a follow up interview with ABC 17 News, House Speaker Tim Jones called Nixon's spending proposals "Christmas in January," saying Nixon was budgeting with unrealistic dollar amounts.

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