Governor calls for expanding education spending and Medicaid

Gov. Jay Nixon called for more education spending and Medicaid expansion during his State of the State address Tuesday night.

Gov. Jay Nixon struck a combative tone Tuesday night as he announced a massive increase in education spending and again called on lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Much of the governor's annual State of the State address centered around those two topics. Nixon said he would ask for $490 million more for education than he did last year, with $278 million of that going toward the state's K-12 funding formula. The Democratic governor repeatedly attacked majority Republicans for some of their stances on education spending.

"Each year, there are some who believe the way to build up our schools is to tear down our teachers - trying to cut their pay, or reduce their retirement benefits or threaten their job security," he said at one point. "That simply needs to stop."

Later in the speech, Nixon declared, "I won't support any measure that takes money out of our classrooms."

Republicans wasted no time in counterattacking, calling Nixon's proposals dangerous. They pointed out Nixon's budget office estimates some $140 million more in revenue than the House and Senate have projected. At a news conference after the speech, House Speaker Tim Jones accused Nixon of renegeing on his education spending promises.

"The house has appropriated more money, nearly every year I've been here, for education, and time and again, the governor has then withheld money from education, so I think it's time for the governor to stop using our educators and the children of our state as political pawns," he told reporters.

Jones said Nixon did not offer any substantive legislative solutions to the problems he raised. He called Nixon's proposals "all based on the fact that if we throw more money at our problems, that will somehow solve all the problems that we have."

While education took up the bulk of Nixon's speech, the governor repeatedly demanded Republicans expand Medicaid coverage to anyone with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, something he noted many states have already done. Jones showed no interest in doing so.