NIXON'S WEEK 23 GRADE: B -
Governor Nixon's backing of a $700 million dollar bond program for building projects comes around the same time he's expected to be close to making some considerable capital cuts out of the overloaded state budget. Though they both have questions, initial signs are that Speaker Ron Richard and Senate Leader Charlie Shields favor the general idea of building bonds, which would need statewide approved by voters. But Republicans are already preemptively ratcheting up the pressure over a potential cut to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia as well as other higher education projects. Sen. Kurt Schaefer thinks Nixon's call for a construction plan is a cynical move to soften the ax that's coming. Even Democratic lawmakers are unsure what Nixon will slice, which is causing some nervousness. (Do you get the sense Nixon doesn't even want to show his cards to allies in his own party?) The line-item veto is one of the most powerful acts a Governor has in his executive arsenal. The test for Nixon is how to minimize the political fallout from the lines in bills he decides to cross out. A longer-term question for the Governor is whether encouraging the state to borrow more money is the smartest strategy for Missouri's fiscal health.