In his seventh State of the State speech, Gov. Jay Nixon told a joint session of the Legislature, “A lot has changed since last year.”
Not much has changed in his year-to-year priorities, but a lot has changed for Nixon.
He now faces an adversarial supermajority in the Legislature, new constitutional restrictions on how he spends and withholds money, and continuing racial unrest in Ferguson that thrust his state–and his handling of the situation–into national notoriety.
By creating an Office of Community Engagement and a Ferguson Commission, Nixon says he has taken “meaningful steps forward in Ferguson,” but added “the legacy of Ferguson will be determined by what we do next.”
Nixon suggested that lawmakers:
– reform municipal courts
– update the state statute governing deadly force to be consistent with constitutional requirements and U. S. Supreme Court precedent;
– support policies that foster racial understanding and compassion;
– create greater economic opportunity and encourage personal responsibility;
– strengthen failing schools and provide access to affordable health care;
– recruit, train and certify professional law enforcement that reflects the diversity of the community it serves.
There was little response to this list from the GOP side of the room until Nixon praised law enforcement: “We are proud of our law enforcement, for all they do, each and every day.”
This drew a standing ovation from the joint assembly.
Nixon’s renewed plea to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act drew a deadpan response from Republicans, as did his suggestion to consider a gas tax or a toll road on Interstate 70 to improve roads and bridges. There has been no increase in the Missouri gas tax in about 20 years.
As in years past, he touted the recovery of the state’s auto industry, praising about 40 United Auto Worker’s union members who attended and cheered from the gallery.
“Your work ethic is second to none. Your product is the best in the world. You make Missouri proud,” Nixon said amidst their cheers.
The governor praised public schools and calls for “record funding for K-12 education” but some House leaders took issue with his math.
Nixon called for boosting cattle processing inside Missouri and announced he will be going to Cuba with state Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce in March to “make sure Missouri is first in the door” in agricultural trade.
He also proposed building a new veterans’ home along with modernizing existing ones.
Listen to the entire 2015 State of the State speech (47:38):