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Mo. gov. backs Medicaid expansion, bonding plan

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 28, 2013 at 9:24 pm •  Published: January 28, 2013
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Republican House Speaker Tim Jones said in a prepared rebuttal to Nixon's speech that Republicans would not heed his call to expand Medicaid.

Jones, of Eureka, said Republicans could work with Nixon in some areas, but added: "Many of his new proposals, ones that would create a bigger, more intrusive government bureaucracy, threaten to create a chasm that no amount of bipartisanship can bridge."

Jones said Republicans would come up with their own plan "to transform our Medicaid system," though he did not go into details.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer also cited concerns about whether Missouri could afford the Medicaid expansion a decade from now, after the federal government phases down its share of the funding.

"One thing I will not allow to happen is increased welfare spending at the detriment of public education," said Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, described Nixon's address as a "spend-every-dollar-we-have speech."

Nixon's budget upset some Republicans because it is balanced on the assumption that lawmakers will approve a variety of measures to increase state revenues. It assumes more than $56 million from the elimination of a tax break for low-income renters; nearly $52 million from an amnesty period for people to pay overdue taxes; more than $46 million in new tax revenues and savings resulting from the Medicaid expansion; and more than $10 million from a proposed law encouraging the collection of sales taxes on online purchases.

Many of Nixon's new spending proposals were focused on education. His budget plan includes a 4 percent increase for public colleges and universities to be distributed if they meet new performance criteria, such as student retention and graduation rates. It would more than double the state's spending on early childhood education programs. And Nixon proposed a $66 million increase to the state's $3 billion basic aid program for K-12 public schools — though that still would fall $620 million short of the amount called for by the state's school funding formula.

Education also would benefit from a bonding proposal that some Republican and Democratic lawmakers already have been touting.

Though Nixon didn't embrace a specific dollar amount, he said the state could afford to issue less than $1 billion of bonds if lawmakers reduced the amount of money awarded through its many tax credit programs. He proposed that the bond money would go to K-12 school buildings; science, technology and mathematics facilities at public colleges and universities; a new state mental health facility; and state parks.

Nixon also proposed a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, a 3 percent increase in state reimbursement rates to foster parents and health care providers, and expanded child-care subsidies for lower-income working parents.

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Associated Press Writers Chris Blank and Jordan Shapiro contributed to this report.