By Eli Yokley
Globe Staff Writer
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
With lawmakers out of the capital city for legislative spring break, Gov. Jay Nixon also slipped out of town. But instead of a quick vacation or a week in his hometown, Nixon embarked on the third trade trip of his administration.
Joined by other lawmakers and business leaders, Nixon signed off on agreements that he hopes will bring nearly $1.9 million in new trade with Taiwan and South Korea.
The deal with Taiwan includes plans to sell $700 million in Missouri goods over the next four years, a $200 million export agreement with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, and a $500 million agreement between the state and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council. The Korean deal includes a $600 million deal with the Korea-U.S. Economic Council and a $600 million agreement with the Korea Importers Association.
Speaking with reporters by phone on Thursday morning, Nixon said the agreements mean a significant boost for the state’s agriculture and biotechnology industries.
“All of this means more soybeans, manufactured goods will be sold on the international market,” he said. “That means more jobs.”
The trade mission could bring more jobs to the Joplin area, too. Nixon was joined on the trip by Frank Noboa, the international sales representative for Cardinal Scale Manufacturing Co. Nixon visited Cardinal Scale’s Webb City plant late last year to highlight the company’s own efforts to export its products by placing warehouses in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Cardinal Scale is a worldwide exporter of scale systems, and this trade mission helped increase the company’s exposure in these markets,” Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said.
Nixon was joined on his trip by state Rep. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield; state Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa; Senate Minority Floor Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City; state Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City; and nearly a dozen other business and education groups.
Nixon previously led trade missions to China in October 2011 and Brazil last April. Missouri exports nearly $28 billion a year, his office said. None of the three trade trips was paid for with tax dollars.
On Friday, state Auditor Tom Schweich, R-Clayton, released an audit critical of the Republican-controlled General Assembly for a lack of transparency in its record keeping of official emails.
Schweich’s audit called on both chambers to change the Sunshine Law to make it clearer and to establish a records retention policy. The House and Senate both responded that they would take the auditor’s recommendations into account but felt they were acting within the law.
“Individual senators are not considered a ‘public governmental body,’” the terminology used in the Sunshine Law, “so their records are not subject to Sunshine Law requests,” the Senate’s response said.
Schweich also found that the House of Representatives raised the pay of its employees by $425,000 between November 2011 and August 2012, a nearly 5 percent increase. The House also provided a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment last July, which was provided to all state employees making less than $70,000. Schweich said the House should re-evaluate its pay raises, as well as its lenient leave benefits.