Friday, January 30, 2009

Round The Horn

Good Friday morning.

We hope you begin this TGIF a bit warmer than The Notebook. It's been a rough 'n tumble week covering ice and snow for the TV. So to catch up for our time on the road, and trampling through the sleet, we go 'round the horn to kick off the weekend.

Let's get to it . . . The Lite Guv leads . . .

KINDER TAKES HIS STAND -- Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder called a press gaggle in his Jefferson City office Thursday to make his case against Governor Jay Nixon's plan to halt MOHELA construction projects. Will we look back at this as the first shot across the bow for 2012? (Nah, as much time as our friends in the printing press spend on it, no average voter can spell MOHELA, let alone 'splain it.) “At this hour, MOHELA has funded $242 million of the projects. Right now, there is still $120 million in the bank for these projects. The Governor’s staff has said they don’t believe that MOHELA will make the remaining payments. At the same time, the Governor has built a budget with the promises of federal stimulus coming to Missouri," Kinder said during the presser in his office Thursday. Nixon campaigned against Gov. Matt Blunt's MOHELA plan. It shouldn't have been diverted from its purpose of student loans, Nixon argued. Now he's got a budget deficit as an excuse to follow through. “In this economy, we should keep people employed as long as possible to continue working on the projects which have such a high probability for economic success," Kinder went on. "Then, make the transition seamless into federal stimulus dollars to fund the remaining work that needs to be done.”

VIEBROCK: THE AUDACITY OF JAY NIXON . . . Rep. Jim Viebrock of the #134th House District writes in his weekly update that he "found it remarkable that for the first half of (Jay Nixon's State of the State) address he was touting positions and accomplishments that we (the Republicans) had crafted and pushed through the process over the last couple of years." Viebrock then went on to criticize Nixon's budget plan that in part, is dependant on federal stimulus funds. "To create a new budget under the assumption that money might come later, could potentially embarrass the Nixon administration in the event that withholds then become necessary down the line," Viebrock wrote.

NO PAY RAISE -- The State Senate voted against a recommendation to increase pay for state lawmakers and judges. Let's not give them too much credit. This really wasn't a tough call. A state commission recommended a raise of $1,500 for cost of living reasons for elected officials. Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields said, "this decision was a no-brainer, absolutely no pay raises for state elected officials." Sen. Jim Lembke, who carried the measure, added, "the last thing we need is to give ourselves a raise while jobs are being lost throughout the state." The House voted on Monday 129-31 to shoot down the pay raise as well.

QUICK QUESTION -- Who's a more sympathetic figure this week -- Ted Haggard or Rod Blagojevich?

TIMETABLE -- How much pressure does President Obama face in sticking to his 16-month timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq? Missouri's senior most official on military matters says the timetable is less important than the ultimate goal. "It helps for him to aim for it,” said Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in an article in the International Herald Tribune. "If you can draw your troops down to within the ballpark and they’re safe, that’s what counts."

BTW: Rep. Skelton voted FOR the stimulus BUT warns he really wants stimuli -- "While the economic recovery legislation is an important part of our country’s effort to stimulate the economy, it should not be perceived as a silver bullet that will cure all economic ills," he said in his speech on the House floor.

CALL HER MADAME OVERSIGHT -- Sen. Claire McCaskill has been appointed the new chair of a Senate subcommittee focused on Contracting Oversight. It will fall under Sen. Joe Lieberman's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman on Claire: "With her background as a prosecutor and state auditor, Senator McCaskill has unique investigative experience that will be crucial for this new subcommittee. I am certain that she will approach her new responsibilities with unmatched vigor to improve the value of all the taxpayer dollars devoted to federal contracting." Claire on the gig: "Last year we made major strides in contracting accountability by establishing the Wartime Contracting Commission, and while I look forward to those investigations, we all know that outrageous contracting abuses occur in every facet of government. I can't wait to get to work saving huge money for taxpayers. They deserve it."

PONDER THIS -- If you're Jim Talent, is someone really trying to convince you that waiting '10 out and running against McCaskill in 2012 is the better shot? I'd bet against that right now. It's waay early. But two years in, McCaskill looks like she's making all the right moves . . . grilling Democratic Obama appointees, fighting earmarks, raking up waste and abuse, focusing on veteran's care and problems at Ft. Wood. Talk to some rational Republicans privately, and off-the-record, and they think Claire's doing a good job. Sure, McCaskill could pop off and say something offensive that the G.O.P. HQ will jump on. But that's when that Obama warchest will come in handy . . .
SARAH STEELMAN, by the way, landed safely in Washington late Thursday night for her Friday meetings with the NRSC.
THEN, (FOR JT,) THERE'S THIS . . . WILL THE NAME TREVOR BLACKANN APPEAR IN A 2010 PRIMARY AD . . .? Another former aide to Jack Abramoff has been charged. This time it's wire fraud. The name is Todd Boulanger. Why do we care? Boulanger was a close friend of Trevor Blackann, who pleaded guilty in November to filing a bad tax return that was missing $4,100 in illegal gifts from lobbyists, including Abramoff. Blackann was also an aide to Sen. Kit Bond and Rep. Roy Blunt.
GRADING PAPERS . . . Send your suggestions about how to grade Gov. Nixon's big budget week (week #3) to

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