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State Representative Gary Cross Capital Report
State Representative Gary Cross Capital Report
February 2, 2013
Gary L. Cross
St. Rep. 35th District
Governor Outlines His Priorities during Annual State of the State Address
Monday evening the governor joined us in the House Chamber to outline his budget and policy priorities for the year. In his annual State of the State address, Governor Nixon emphasized a number of legislative issues where he will find common ground with the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. Ideas such as tax credit reform, infrastructure improvements and enhanced education funding will all receive bipartisan support. On other hand, the governor’s call to massively expand the state’s Medicaid program is likely to gain little traction in either the House or Senate.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months as session moves along. My hope is that the governor will work with the legislature to move forward the priorities we have in common. While we may have different party affiliations, we share the desire to do what is best for all Missourians. I hope this session will see us make significant strides that will position our state for long-term prosperity.
House Speaker Responds to Governor’s Address
Traditionally, a prominent Republican office holder will respond to the governor’s address. This year it was our own House Speaker Tim Jones who had the honor of delivering the response. In his address, he called on Governor Nixon to engage with legislators in the process. As the Speaker said, the governor has too often retreated behind his rhetoric rather than engage with us to find effective solutions. Like all of my colleagues in the House, Speaker Jones is optimistic that Governor Nixon will roll up his sleeves and work with us this year.
Areas of Agreement – Infrastructure Improvements and Tax Credit Reform
According to the Speaker, the areas where we expect to find the most agreement are on the issue of improvements to our roads, highways and college campuses, as well as topic of effective reforms to the 61 tax credit programs currently in existence in Missouri. Both sides of the aisle think the time is right to consider a bonding proposal that would provide $1 billion in funding that would allow the state to repair and rebuild old and failing roads and bridges. The money also would be used to upgrade state facilities, parks and buildings on the campuses of our institutions of higher learning. As we look to the future, we know it is imperative that we invest in our infrastructure today so that it can meet the demands of tomorrow. Both Speaker Jones and Governor Nixon agree this will be a priority this session.
They also agree that we must take a closer look at the tax credit programs that provide incentives to help create jobs and stimulate our economy. Some of these programs work exceptionally well. Others may represent an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Our goal this year is to cut the credits that do not work, cap credit programs at a reasonable level to provide budget certainty and create new programs that are fiscally responsible, have significant taxpayer protections and that are immediately fiscally positive. With strong support from both parties, tax credit reform will take center stage this session.
Area of Disagreement – Medicaid Expansion
One area where there will be little agreement is the topic of Medicaid expansion. As part of the federal health care plan, states are being asked to increase the eligibility levels for the program. In his speech, Governor
Nixon proposed adding nearly 300,000 Missourians to the Medicaid rolls. Right now the federal government is offering to pick up the tab for most of the expansion. However, even the governor admitted in his speech that sometimes the federal government doesn’t follow through with the promises it makes. The idea of massively expanding Medicaid with money that may not be there in a few years is one that leaders in the
House and Senate have not been willing to embrace. In the words of House Speaker Jones, we are not willing to consider a proposal that “will saddle future generations of Missourians with a bill they cannot afford.”
While the governor’s speech contained many substantive policy ideas, the bulk of his address was focused on his budget priorities for the coming fiscal year. His spending plan calls for a total general revenue expenditure of $8.292 billion. In comparison, the consensus revenue estimate the House, Senate and executive budget office agreed to in December calls for $7.929 billion in revenues for fiscal year 2014. The end result is a budget gap of $363 million that has to be filled in order to meet the governor’s proposed spending plan.
The governor wants us to fill part of that gap by passing legislation that would generate nearly $165 million in funding. He has asked the legislature to pass bills that would create a tax amnesty plan that would produce $51.8 million in new revenues; eliminate a property tax credit for renters to create another $56.6 million; collect sales tax from online purchases for another $10.5 million; and expand Medicaid to secure an additional $46 million in funding. Keep in mind none of these proposals have received legislative approval and many have been on the table during past sessions and failed to make it through the process. If they don’t make it through this session, the governor’s budget will be drastically out of balance.
Education Funding Increases Proposed
While I’m hesitant to view the governor’s proposed budget as a realistic spending plan, I am supportive of many of the funding increases he has asked us to consider. His budget would double the amount of money we spend on our early childhood education programs, bringing the total to $18 million. It also would provide an additional $108 million to our public schools throughout the state. In addition, the governor has proposed a 4 percent funding increase for our public institutions of higher learning, and he has tied that increase to performance goals that the schools must meet such as student retention and graduation rates. All are ideas I think have merit, but also represent spending increases that we have to find a way to fund. In each of the last few years the legislature has worked to find additional dollars for education even as our budget situation has been dire. Hopefully this year will bring even more good news to our schools and the young people they prepare for future success.
Please feel free to call my Capitol office at (573) 751-1459 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative of the 35th District in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Armed Robbery Thursday Evening in Lee's Summit