Sunday, April 19, 2009

Week 14: Nixon's Grade


In his plainest language yet, Governor Jay Nixon made the case last week that the Senate's unwillingness to approve his economic development bill is costing Missourians jobs. One company has already announced it's heading to Michigan for better incentives. There's speculation more could follow. The Republican House Speaker seems just as frustrated with the Senate stalemate. State unemployment is steadily creeping towards an alarming 9 percent. Yet at Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in St. Louis, Nixon notably refrained from skewering the Senate, instead serving up red-meat about the GOP-lead House, according to Jo Mannies' reporting in the Saint Louis Beacon. (Part of the issue is that a few Democratic Senators are part of the Quality Jobs filibuster effort.) Nixon has juggled carrots and sticks throughout his first 90 days in dealing with a legislature of the opposite party. His move to tap former foe David Steelman to help reform the state retirement system is another example of Nixon's bipartisan credibility. But with weeks winding down in the session, the Governor realizes that some of his initiatives won't survive. He'll have to pick his battles strategically. Lawmakers of both parties want more information on his plan to use stimulus money for business incentives. And Republican Senators may demand some type of cap on historic tax credits in order to pass the Governor's biggest economic development tool. Nixon continues to say he's open to compromise. It's probably fair to assume the administration has been trying to cut a deal behind the scenes. What we don't know yet is how much the Governor is willing to concede to an upper chamber that has mostly ignored his suggestions/threats thus far. "We need to get back to apples," Nixon said this week, suggesting that the Senate is ignoring the fundamentals of his plan to debate "oranges." If his chief priority is still unresolved in a few weeks, Nixon may be left to squeezing lemons.

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