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Nixon's State of the State, business leaders, to highlight jobs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 4, 2012 - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has set Jan. 17 -- two days earlier than in 2011 -- for his annual State of the State address, which will be his last before facing voters in November. As in previous years, Nixon is focusing on job creation and improving the state's economy.

That's also true of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, which wants the General Assembly to focus on three proposals, one of which was vetoed by Nixon last session.

At a news conference Tuesday, the chamber assembled a coalition of business groups -- including the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association -- that are seeking changes in three areas: workers compensation, lawsuits and employee rights.

Nixon vetoed a bill passed by the General Assembly last session that would have made it more difficult for employees to sue companies for discrimination. The governor did so with a politically charged ceremony in front of the Old Courthouse that riled some business leaders who generally have been satisfied with the governor's pro-business stance since taking office in January 2009.

The Missouri Chamber says the three proposals won't cost the state any money. But it's unclear if changes will be made in the proposals that might them more palatable to Nixon, a lawyer, and his allies -- notably, labor unions.

The governor and business leaders have shared concerns about revamping the state's fiscally troubled workers compensation system, but it's unclear if the two sides -- and the Republican-controlled General Assembly -- can agree on what should be done.

The governor's State of the State address, like his previous ones, is likely to highlight what he sees as major business-related successes. They are expected to include:

  • Missouri's unemployment rate, which generally has been lower than the national average;
  • The state's addition of 10,900 manufacturing jobs in 2011, according to federal statistics;
  • Preservation of Ford's Claycomo automaking plant near Kansas City;
  • Phasing out of the state's corporate franchise tax, which will cost the state close to $20 million a year in income.

Nixon also will likely talk about the future, which already will include a new state economic development director.
The governor is less likely to mention the economic losses, notably the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs in the St. Louis area since 2009, including the closing of Chrysler's plants in Fenton and the departure of most of Pfizer's pharmaceutical operations in Chesterfield.

Nixon also is unlikely to say much about the continued controversy over the failed Mamtek manufacturing project in Moberly, Mo.

As during his previous three addresses, Nixon will deliver his speech at 7 p.m., Tues., Jan. 17 before a joint session of the General Assembly held in the House chambers.

The address can be viewed online via the state's web portal, mo.gov. Some TV or radio stations also may broadcast the speech, although often only a few have done so. Locally, public radio station KWMU (90.7 FM) traditionally has aired the State of the State address.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.