Sunday, November 01, 2009

Week 42: Nixon's Grade


Simply put, Gov. Jay Nixon's budget director calls the general revenue picture the worst she's ever seen. And just a few days before Halloween, that reality again turned Nixon into a slasher. Another $204 million dollars in cuts that don't directly gut the Governor's stated priorities, but slice very close to the bone: Is a reimbursement rate decrease to doctors equivalent to cutting healthcare? Is trimming back online classes mean Nixon cut education? Notably, the House Budget Chair's main critique was that Nixon didn't cut enough. Is this bleak budget picture a blessing in disguise that allows Nixon to bolster his fiscal conservative chops? It's likely that Missourians will be more understandable about the budget picture than they will about job loss. To reverse the trend, Nixon picked off Kansas Commerce Secretary David Kerr to lead his Department of Economic Development. While The Notebook previously reported that interim director Katie Steele Danner was viewed as favorite for the job, it's now evident that it wasn't as important for Nixon to keep a woman and Missouri native in the post. Kerr has received the customary honeymoon round of positive reviews, (The Kansas City Star called Nixon's pick 'a coup') but he will need Senate confirmation. It's unclear if it will arise as an issue, but a 2008 audit of Kerr's Commerce Department in Kansas found his department "burdened by a management structure more top-heavy" than at least five other state agencies. But the worst story of the week for Nixon was a suggestive Associated Press piece that took aim at one the Governor's first pieces of reform: changing the way license fee offices are doled out. "Some losing bidders and former license office operators claim the bid process was fixed . . .," wrote the wire service. "Some bidders suggested the scoring system seems manipulated," it went on. The story centers around the ex-husband of State Auditor Susan Montee and a friend, James Williams, and their ability to win several lucrative contracts based on political connections. In the final line in the story, Williams himself clearly captures the political problem: "Probably the perception does look bad, and as we all know, Jay’s all about perception," Williams said.

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