In his last State of the State appearance before facing re-election in November, Gov. Jay Nixon outlined legislative and budget priorities in a speech that had the tone of a campaign appearance. He called for cooperation from members of both parties.
Nixon focused much of his time describing plans for economic development, which he called Missouri Works. It was a seven-part proposal that focuses on growing the economy by attracting automotive parts manufacturers, increasing exports for agriculture and manufactured goods and investing in science and technology. Nixon touted the plan in stops around the state earlier this week.
He also called for legislators to pass a tax credit reform package, maintain protections for Missouri workers and put caps on unlimited campaign contributions.
"Let's finally get it done," Nixon said.
The economic development plan presented by Nixon was pared back from previous years. It focused on areas of the Missouri economy where it was already performing well, he said.
"From our low taxes to our strong workforce, Missouri is well-positioned for job creation," he said. "To keep our economy growing, we must build on these strengths."
Nixon noted that unemployment has fallen to 8 percent, the lowest in three years, and pointed to the reinvestment by Ford and General Motors by bringing new manufacturing lines to automotive plants in Claycomo and Wentzville. The investments represent more than 3,000 new jobs.
To build on that growth, Nixon said the state needs to work on attracting such manufacturers to the state by passing similar economic incentive that led to the auto-makers staying in Missouri.
The plan also focuses on increasing the investment in science and technology companies. During the special session last fall, lawmakers passed the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, which created a fund to help new companies in those fields. Nixon's proposed budget includes $4 million for that fund.
"By speeding the flow of innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace, we're growing these industries today and creating the high-tech jobs of tomorrow," he said.
The program also requested additional funding for rural broadband to increase business growth and opening a trade office overseas to boost exports.
He also called for stable school funding and looking into ways to reform urban schools where students may be struggling. His budget calls for an increase of $5 million in school funding, but also includes a 12.5 percent cut to higher education.
Republicans, meanwhile, said they wanted more leadership from Nixon this year -- and not just a speech.
"We in the General Assembly would hope that Jay Nixon would follow through on his promises," said House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka. "But if the past is any indication, his leadership will stop once the cameras are turned off and the reality of life continues."
Jones delivered the Republican response with Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia. Both said they believed Nixon didn't show enough leadership over his tenure as governor, which subsequently hurt the state. Jones pointed to several issues related to economic development during Nixon's term, including the failed sweetener plant in Moberly. He also accused Nixon of backing proposals that hurt the business climate in Missouri.
"If you are willing to lead, the peoples' elected representatives are eager to work with you to create the environment necessary for businesses to create jobs, to balance the budget without new job-killing taxes, to improve our schools, and to protect Missouri values," Jones said.
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, said he didn't hear much in the speech that instilled a sense of confidence in Nixon's leadership.
"I was a little bit disappointed," Dixon said.