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Gov. Nixon addresses several controversial issues during State of the State

Governor Jay Nixon called on legislators to put partisanship aside Wednesday night as he discussed several issues to tackle during his State of the State Address.

“Here in Missouri, fiscal discipline is a value. We balance budgets, we keep taxes low. And we continue to downsize state government while improving services through innovation,” Gov. Nixon said.

The Democratic governor spoke to a legislature dominated by Republicans with whom he has often been at odds.

One of the first issues Nixon addressed was about veterans’ care. He said his budget includes the resources to improve and modernize veterans’ home and care, and followed it up by proposing the construction of a new veterans’ home.

The Democratic Governor continued by discussing some of the ways he’s keeping Missouri’s budget balanced, saying, “We trimmed the state workforce by more than 4,000 positions…paid down debt….sold off property. At a time when pension costs were dragging down other states – we worked together to shore up our pension system, saving taxpayers more than $600 million over 10 years.”

He took a break from money talk to discuss cyber-security, saying they will ramp up cyber-security efforts by partnering with businesses, law enforcement and universities to educate the public on best practices to safe online.

Then, it was back to the economy.

Nixon said he found out just Wednesday that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been since 1997 — 5.4%.

He went on to say Missouri’s exports are doing extremely well, especially in the agriculture department. And he also wants to open trade with Cuba.

Then, he focused on discussing I-70, saying how dire the financial situation was for repairs. Nixon said one option for a funding solution would be a toll road on I-70.

“This could make I-70 safer and better and free up tens of millions of dollars for other roads around the state,” Nixon said.

Another option he brought up was a gas tax, saying the state has one of the lowest in the country and it would be worth “taking a closer look”.

There were murmurs around the room as he proposed his two ideas, some of agreement and some of discontent.

It only got more controversial as he moved on to talk about Ferguson.

“The legacy of Ferguson will be determined by what we do next to foster healing and hope and the changes we make to strengthen all of our communities,” Nixon said.

He said they will invest $2.5 million to help on West Florissant Avenue, where many of the businesses were looted and destroyed after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

He also said Missouri needs to reform municipal courts so all citizens are treated fairly; update the state statute governing deadly force to be consistent with constitutional requirements; support policies that foster racial understanding; strengthen failing schools and provide access to affordable healthcare.

House Speaker John Diehl gave the Republican response and he specifically called out Governor Nixon, saying we cannot blame the police officers for what happened, but rather blame the problem on the government. He also said there will be a hearing to decide who dropped the ball in Ferguson and what needs to be done about it.

Nixon incited more controversy when he spoke about Medicaid reform, saying Missouri needed to reform the system or they would lose healthcare jobs to other states. Many Republicans were not happy about this, asking where he got the numbers to support his statements.

Nixon also said he wants a $50 million increase in basic aid to public schools, and another $25 million to colleges and universities as long as they uphold certain standards.

Nixon proposed that the $50 million increase could be boosted by an additional $79 million if legislators pass several measures including expanding Medicaid. But those proposals have failed in past years. Some education groups said the $50 million still wouldn’t be enough to avoid cuts.

To view a full transcript of Gov. Nixon’s entire speech, click on the link under related content at the top of this article.

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