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Nixon announces jobs initiative -- but not the cost

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 18, 2009 - With his eye on the federal stimulus package, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday that he had plans for spending much of it on a multi-pronged program called the "Transform Missouri Initiative."

The initiative, he said, would focus on creating jobs, bolstering education, encouraging scientific and technological advances, and improving the state's infrastructure.

But Nixon's announcement, made Wednesday afternoon in the state Capitol, didn't include any financial figures on how much money he would earmark for each aspect of the initiative -- or how much he expects Missouri to receive from Washington.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said later, "That information will be forthcoming from the governor's budget office, within the next week."

Some Republican legislative leaders have said that they might seek to turn down the money, or send it to taxpayers as state tax cuts. Holste said that some of the stimulus can be spent directly by Nixon, without legislative action, while some parts of the package would require legislative approval.

In any case, the spokesman added, Nixon wants to make sure "that Missouri gets its share and makes use of its share" of the stimulus money allocated to the state, and portions that require competition among the states.

Earlier Wednesday, Nixon made an unannounced visit to St. Louis, where he toured at least one scientific facility. Holste confirmed the stop, but provided no details.

One of the planks of Nixon's initiative is "attracting the jobs of the future through science and emerging technology."

Nixon proposes that some of the stimulus money "pay for specialized training and Missouri will partner with life science leaders to bring even greater practical and academic growth to the sector that is already curing diseases, feeding American families and producing world-altering research."

"Missouri also will become a leader in energy conservation and generation,'' he said in his announcement. "The Transform Missouri Initiative will direct tens of millions of dollars toward the weatherization of government, industry and individual consumers that will save hundreds of millions over the long-haul while simultaneously employing hundreds of Missourians in doing the work. In addition, the Initiative will position Missourians at the forefront of developing, manufacturing and installing the technology that will help make the nation energy independent – components such as wind turbines, solar panels and biomass burners."

Nixon also is calling for some of the stimulus to be used for job-training and unemployment benefits, as well as for transportation construction projects.

"Missouri is home to the hardest-working, most productive folks in the country," Nixon said in his prepared remarks. "But during these difficult economic times, too many Missourians are unemployed, and too many families are struggling to make ends meet. We’re going to maximize the benefit of these federal dollars to get Missourians back to work now, and to bolster our economy for the years to come..."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.