September 21, 2014

Gov. Nixon announces new community outreach office after Ferguson criticism

Governor Jay Nixon has announced the creation of a new office that he says will work with Missourians and help find “policy solutions for challenges facing low-income and minority communities.”

Nixon signed an executive order creating the Office of Community Engagement and appointed former state senator Maida Coleman as its director. Former St. Louis Municipal Judge Marvin Teer will serve as deputy director and general counsel.

The announcement follows criticism, particularly from black Democrats, of Nixon’s handling of racial issues, especially the tension and rioting in Ferguson following the Michael Brown shooting.

In a statement, Nixon writes, “Across our state, Missouri communities are facing serious issues involving race, educational and economic opportunities, and poverty. The Office of Community Engagement will be responsible for facilitating meaningful communication about these issues that will yield concrete results. Maida and Marvin will get to work immediately to listen, learn, and assess the challenges facing minority and low-income communities across the state, and help to develop specific policies to address them.”

The new office will be part of the Office of Administration. Nixon’s office says it will “be responsible for engaging communities, public and private sector leaders, clergy and citizens across he state in communication regarding critical issues affecting Missouri communities.”

The new office’s creation is being praised by Congressman William Lacy Clay (D). In a statement, Clay writes, “I am hopeful that this new office will engage citizens at the grass roots level in Ferguson, and across our state, to begin the long-overdue, difficult conversation about the very real disparities based on race and poverty which have produced a lack of jobs and opportunity and unequal treatment by the judicial system.”

 

Both sides of the aisle critical of Nixon (AUDIO)

A common saying at the state Capitol is that “The Governor proposes; the legislature disposes.” Legislators from both sides of the aisle are growing more publicly disenchanted with Governor Nixon’s follow-up on his proposals.

To hear Republicans talk, Governor Nixon doesn’t get involved in developing legislation until lawmakers have passed a bill–and then he criticizes their work and vetoes the bill. Senate leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles, a Republican, minces no words…

AUDIO: Dempsey

Even Nixon’s fellow Democrats sometimes struggle to defend his relations with the legislature. Senator Scott Sifton is from St.Louis.

AUDIO: Sifton 

But Nixon had few defenders on bills reinstating spending bills had vetoed. Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal called Nixon a “coward” for his handling of the Ferguson disturbances. And the senior member of the legislature, Democratic Representative Chris Kelly of Columbia, said Nixon’s only relationships are with slaves or enemies. Senator Paul LeVota of Independence has heard those comments.

AUDIO: Levota

But he wouldn’t say which half.

Gov. Nixon announces new releases, restrictions of money in Missouri budget

Governor Jay Nixon has released another $22-million dollars of the money he had been withholding in the state budget, while announcing new withholdings of more than $54-million dollars, in part, tied to the cuts he had made in the budget that the legislature overturned this week.

The $22-million he released was for mental health services, reimbursements to local governments, job training and other priorities. Nixon says he can release that money because the legislature didn’t overturn his vetoes on all the tax break bills he called the “Friday Favors,” that Nixon said would have taken hundreds of millions of dollars annually from state and local governments.

He says the $54-million he is now restricting had to be held back in order to “prevent the growth of government beyond available revenues and ensure a balanced budget.”

The new restrictions include more than $1.4-million for forensic exams for physically abused children, $500-thousand for the Alternatives to Abortion counseling program, $160-thousand for defibrillators for the Water Patrol division of the Highway Patrol and $100-thousand for one new staff position in the Office of Child Advocate.

Money that the governor withholds can be released at a later time.

See a complete list of the money Governor Nixon has released here (pdf), and a list of the new budget restrictions here (pdf).

Nixon on Thursday announced the release of more than $140-million for K-12 and higher education (see earlier story).

Gov. Nixon releases withheld education money, cites veto session outcomes

Governor Jay Nixon has released $143.6-million dollars of the money he was withholding from local schools and higher education, after the state legislature failed to overturn a number of bills Nixon said threatened state revenue.

Nixon says more releases could be coming.

Lawmakers in the veto session that ended early Thursday morning only overturned Nixon’s vetoes on a few of the ten bills he called “Friday Favors;” bills he said would cost the state $425-million annually, and would cost local governments another $351-million a year. Nixon spent much of the summer traveling the state campaigning against the bills and urging that his vetoes be sustained.

Nixon today released more than $100-million for the foundation formula for K-12 education and more than $43-million in performance funding for public colleges and universities.

“I thank members of the General Assembly for taking a closer look at these bills, listening to their constituents and standing with their schools,” write’s Nixon in a statement.

Veto session update: MO House members spar over true budget issues, blame

Six hours into the annual veto session the House continues to take up and vote on overriding cuts made in the state budget by Governor Jay Nixon.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream moves for the override of a budget line item during the 2014 veto session.  (photo credit; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream moves for the override of a budget line item during the 2014 veto session. (photo credit; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

State representatives have been working from a list of 51 items totalling more than $61 million. While debating $4-million dollars for the Utilicare program, that provides low-income Missourians with help buying fuel and paying for utilities, lawmakers argued the Democrats’ and Republicans’ respective positions on what is wrong with Missouri’s budget and whose fault it is.

Maryland Heights Democrat Bill Otto was critical of the Republican-led overriding of budget vetoes, saying the legislature should have settled funding issues when it worked on the budget in the spring.

“The fact of the matter is, we’re piling up the budget, and in a couple of years we’re looking at the tax break,” says Otto, referring to a phased-in tax cut that the legislature enacted over a Nixon veto earlier this year. “There’s so many items here, and for us to just continue to pile on and pile on and pile on, what’s the overall cost going to be? Where are we going to end up with all of this?”

House Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, accuses Democratic Governor Nixon of vetoing important programs while maintaining funding in the budget for his travel expenses.

“We talk about priorities,” says Diehl. “Our priorities out to be on things that help the taxpayers of this state and not having parties out-of-state at conventions, or joining the American Goat Association.”

Gladstone Democrat Jon Carpenter says the items Republicans are criticizing the governor for make up less than one-one-hundreth of one percent of the state budget.

“Let’s be real. Let’s be serious. Let’s be legislators,” argues Carpenter. “We didn’t get sent here to play political games and to say, ‘Oh, it’s all the governor’s fault that he’s spending that fraction of one percent and therefore we don’t have enough money for victims of rape. What an insulting and terrible thing to say.”

Republicans have accused Nixon of being “vindictive” with the budget restrictions and vetoes he made.

“He went for the most egregious possible vetoes he could to try to rub the salt in the wound because he’s made about us overriding him this year on an income tax cut,” says Republican House Speaker Tim Jones, Eureka. “He goes after kids, the mentally disabled, the elderly, and the list goes on.”

The House voted to restore the $4-million dollar line-item for Utilicare.

Money for the items that the legislature votes to restore in the budget can still be withheld by the governor, who says the state doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

Some lawmakers say they hope to complete the veto session today, but that could cause lawmakers to have to stay late into the night. The veto session can not run for more than ten days.