Nixon, lawmakers can’t agree on location for Medicaid meeting

Nixon and lawmakers are split over where to meet and whose terms should set the meeting.

Nixon and lawmakers are split over where to meet and whose terms should set the meeting.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A high-profile meeting between Gov. Jay Nixon and lawmakers may not happen because the two branches of state government are unable to agree on a venue.

On Tuesday, Sen. Gary Romine and Rep. Jay Barnes – both Republicans leading their chamber’s committees looking at Medicaid reform and expansion – sent Nixon a letter saying a meeting could only happen on their terms, with Nixon sitting in front of a joint committee as the sole witness, inside the Capitol building.

But late in the day, Nixon said he simply could not agree to their terms, and said lawmakers had reneged on an agreement to meet in the Governor’s Office Building for a public meeting.

“Given the assurances my office received in good faith from you on the form and content of the meeting, I can only conclude that this last-minute change of heart demonstrates that, as we saw last session, you and your leadership have chosen to give politics precedence over the substance of the discussion,” Nixon wrote. “And while I am always willing and eager to engage in a serious, thoughtful debate about Medicaid, in any setting, I am not interested in taking part in a political game at the expense of the Missourians we have sworn to serve.”

Barnes, speaking to reporters at the end of his committee’s meeting in the capitol on Tuesday, said he believes Nixon should be wiling to sit in front of a formal committee and discuss the issues, and accused Nixon of being the one trying to politicize it by forcing legislators to meet on his terms.

The meeting was set to come after lawmakers spent much of the summer and fall learning about the state’s Medicaid program, as they consider reforms and possible expansion as called for in the federal health care law. Nixon spent last session calling for an expansion to 138 percent of the federal poverty level using federal resources, but lawmakers remained opposed due to concerns over the long-term impact on the state’s coffers.

For now, talks appear stalled between the two sides. Barnes said no meeting is likely unless Nixon agrees to meet at the state Capitol, just two blocks down the street from the Governor’s Office Building.