Written by Hank Koebler (Columbia Missourian)
Gov. Jay Nixon’s ad “Midwest Leader” makes multiple claims about the Missouri economy. How do those claims hold up line-by-line?
Nixon’s commercial opens with an announcer declaring: “Dave Spence’s latest attack ad: FALSE.”
Nixon’s assertions in the “Midwest Leader” ad actually respond to claims Spence made in a separate commercial called “Harley.” The dispute between the two revolves around a plant that Harley-Davidson considered opening in Missouri in 2009. The company already had one plant in Kansas City, and it had announced it was considering closing its plant in York, Pa., and opening a second plant in Kansas City or building one in Tennessee, Indiana or Kentucky. In the end, it decided not to build another plant anywhere.
Spence’s “Harley” ad accuses Nixon of doing too little to help the state land the plant and noted that on the day Harley-Davidson executives were meeting in Kansas City to discuss the plant, Nixon chose to attend the Governor’s Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair.
Nixon defends himself. “Governor Jay Nixon did work with Harley Davidson executives,” the announcer says in the ad.
The assertion that Nixon worked with Harley-Davidson is true but doesn’t necessarily disprove Spence’s claim about Nixon not meeting with executives. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in September 2009 that:
“Nixon himself came in for some blame for refusing to meet with the company’s top brass when they visited Kansas City. It was the day of the governor’s ham breakfast at the state fair, so Nixon participated by phone.”
Nixon offers evidence on his website to support the argument that he worked with Harley-Davidson. First, he cites a Kansas City Business Journal article in which Bob Marcusse, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, praises the governor for being “committed to pulling out all the stops” to land a second Harley plant.
A second point asserts that Nixon did speak to and later met with Harley executives. That’s technically true but could be misinterpreted to imply that Nixon met with them while trying to get Harley Davidson to build a second plant. The governor’s calendar shows that he spoke on the phone with Harley Davidson executives on Aug. 20, 2009, the day of the ham breakfast. He didn’t meet in person with Harley officials until 2010 and 2011, well after the company had decided against building another plant.
Nixon’s claim in the “Midwest Leader” ad that the Kansas City Harley plant now employs 800 people is true, according to a July 24, 2012 article in the Kansas City Star, which stated that “the company has 846 employees altogether in Kansas City.”
Nixon’s ad then shifts gears to say that he “brought Democrats and Republicans together to balance the budget without raising taxes.”
Nixon has received praise for working with Republicans. From Governing magazine:
“By contrast, at least one governor, Democrat Jay Nixon of Missouri, has worked comfortably with a Legislature dominated by the opposite party. ‘Nixon is not a dogmatic Democrat pushing a liberal agenda against the tide,’ said Ken Warren, a Saint Louis University political scientist. ‘His relationship with the Legislature is not hostile at all, angering a lot of Democrats who think that he should act more like a Democrat.’”
According to the Show Me Institute, the personal income tax rate in Missouri has not increased. Also, state budgets verify that state spending has not exceeded revenue during Nixon’s tenure as governor. By those definitions, Nixon’s claim is true.
Nixon also asserts that Ford and General Motors have created more than 3,000 new jobs in Missouri by expanding plants in the state. That number is factually accurate, based on estimations from the companies. The Kansas City Business Journal reported on Oct. 7, 2011, that Ford had decided to invest $1.1 billion and create 1,600 new jobs at its Claycomo plant. The Associated Press reported Nov. 4, 2011, that General Motors decided to start producing pickups at its Wentzville, plant, a move that would add 1,660 jobs at the plant.
Finally, Nixon claims that “Missouri led the Midwest with 17,900 new jobs” in August.
This number is correct, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only Texas and Florida added more jobs during that time frame. In terms of percentage increase, Missouri led the nation. No matter how loosely the Midwest is defined, Missouri outperformed any other nearby states in job creation that month.