JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday signed the state’s $26 billion budget into law — bemoaning cuts the Republican-led legislature made to the state’s social programs, while embracing its endorsement of a statewide managed care program.
During a news conference after a rare Friday session of the state Senate on the last day he could act on the budget bills before they would go into law without his signature, Nixon said he hopes the state could move to managed care model in a way that was “right,” rather than “quick.”
“We’re going to do it in a careful, transparent and responsible way,” he’s said. “Under no circumstances will we implement this expansion at the expense of vulnerable Missourians.”
Nixon, again, expressed his opposition to the “right-to-work” bill Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard has promised to bring up for debate debate when lawmakers return for their final week. But, he stopped short of issuing a veto threat.
“I’m not going to get in a situation where we’re going to play gotcha on bills that aren’t on my desk,” the governor said after a reporter asked him repeatedly whether he would, in fact, veto the bill. “We should get to things that would create jobs and move the state forward, not things that would make it harder on folks to move forward.”
With the Fiscal Year 2016 budget behind them, Nixon said he hopes lawmakers will act on another bill that he believes could be detrimental to future budgets: One that would raise the state’s gas tax to boost state’s revenue in an effort to avoid the potential loss of federal matching funds.
“We’ve got a whole other week. We share priorities in making sure we’re investing in our infrastructure,” he said, a day after visiting a closed bridge near Kansas City to make his case to the public. “As people see the end is out there, we’ll continue to build momentum.”
Nixon met privately with Senate leaders where he discussed, among other things, a measure sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, that would raise the state’s fuel tax by 1.5-cents on gas and 3.5-cents on diesel.
At the beginning of session, lawmakers were talking about legislation that would limit the influence of lobbyists in Jefferson City by reducing the freebies and closing the revolving door for them to become lobbyists, themselves, when they leave elected office. That talk has died down, but Nixon said he wants to see something passed before legislators head home for the summer.
Nixon said the legislation he’s seen has been “incremental,” but would not be a bad step.
“It’s a slice of bread when we need a loaf. Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “I’m hopeful they’ll get something to my desk.”
After Nixon vetoed a bill last year that aimed to address the school transfer crisis facing schools in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, the General Assembly tried again and sent him another bill this year. Unlike last year’s version, this year’s would not allow a student to transfer to a private religious school.
But, to the objection to advocates for school boards and school administrators, it does allow public money to be spent on some charter schools in the St. Louis area and virtual schools in rural parts of the state.
“I’m going to get input from all the groups involved,” Nixon said. “It clearly grew beyond dealing with the specific challenges of the districts… I’ll be in the process, once we get through the session. of trying to understand the bill better.”