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Nixon talks up jobs, while his campaign highlights his hefty bank account

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 13, 2012 - With his re-election bid on the horizon, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday took a two-pronged approach -- showing up in St. Louis to promote his 2012 jobs programs while also releasing in advance his latest campaign finance numbers that show him with more than $5 million in the bank.

Nixon raised $1.325 million during the last quarter of 2011, which wasnot his best quarterly showing. He did benefit, however, from a strong showing in December.  His spending also has increased slightly, to $524,472 for the quarter, which is typical as a campaign gets closer to the election.

Nixon's early release of his finance figures, complete with a copy of his official summary sheet (which the Beacon requires before it wlll publish the figures), was apparently prompted by the fact that Missouri's campaign-finance report deadline is Tuesday -- also the day when he delivers his annual State of the State address. 

The governor didn't want his report to overshadow his remarks, some close to him say. This year's State of the State speech will likely be his highest-profile address before the November election.

Friday's appearance at Jost Chemical Co. in Bel-Ridge was the latest in a series of stops around the state over the past week aimed at highlighting Nixon's likely focus during Tuesday's speech -- jobs.

As he has elsewhere, Nixon on Friday detailed his "Missouri Works strategy" that he says will be his prime focus throughout the year. The governor says the effort is an offshoot of his earlier "Missouri Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth,"  which in May 2010 engaged "600 business, education and labor leaders from across Missouri to develop a blueprint to transform the state's economy."

Missouri Works promises to:

  • "Attract next-generation automotive supplier jobs to Missouri;
  • "Expand Missouri exports to create jobs;
  • "Train more workers for high-tech careers;
  • "Hire more Missouri military veterans;
  • "Jumpstart job-creation in science and technology;
  • "Target high-growth industries identified by the Strategic Initiative;
  • "Create jobs in rural communities."

"My top priority for 2012 is to create jobs to get Missourians working and keep our economy moving forward," said Nixon during Friday's remarks at Jost.
The governor, a Democrat, was joined by Jost president and founder Jerry Jost, who made clear later that he was happy to host the governor -- but wasn't making a political statement or endorsement by doing so.

Jost, a Republican, said during an interview that he thought reduced regulations and lower taxes were the best way to attract more businesses to the state. Jost, whose company began in 1985, did note that he was impressed by Nixon and thought the governor "has been a friend of business."

That's most likely the chief message that Nixon sought to get across. During Friday's speech, Nixon took note of the 10,000-plus new manufacturing jobs created in Missouri in 2011 and the jobs added by Ford and GM at their respective facilities outside Kansas City and in Wentzville.

Said Nixon in his address:  "Missouri Works gives several concrete steps we can take right now to attract new employers to Missouri, create career opportunities and keep our economy growing. There's not a day to lose when it comes to creating jobs and growing our economy, and I look forward to working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to implement this bold strategy as quickly as possible to get Missourians back to work." 

Nixon said that several aspects of Missouri Works would require legislative action and that he hopes to "work hand in glove'' with the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

The governor observed that boosting the state's economy, and adding jobs, has contributed to the state's decline in unemployment -- now at its lowest in 34 months. Such job growth could help counteract what Nixon acknowledged will be a grim state budget outlook.

Nixon noted that he also will unveil his next fiscal-year budget during the State of the State address and observed that additional trims will be required. State budget director Linda Luebbering has projected that the coming budget (FY2013) will likely need to absorb $500 million in cuts because of less federal aid. Some watchdog groups have predicted that the figure will be closer to $800 million.

In response to questions, Nixon said that the state might face a rosier fiscal outlook if the General Assembly had taken action on proposals -- many backed by him -- to curb the state tax-credit programs, which then reduce the state's income from tax revenue.  Efforts to do so died during the last legislative session, and this fall's special session.

But Nixon also emphasized that the proposed tax-credit trims would have had limited short-term impact and generally would have helped state budgets a number of years from now.

The governor signaled that his administration hoped to work with legislators on proposals to revamp the state's financially troubled second-injury fund -- a program for injured workers with pre-existing conditions. And he noted that the state's workers compensation rates have been reduced and credited state, business and labor efforts to make the work place safer.

Nixon didn't mention his campaign-finance figures (he earlier has bristled at talking politics at official events). But $5 million speaks for itself.

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.