Barbara Shelly

Jay Nixon boxes malicious lawmakers into a corner

Updated: 2013-05-11T23:43:39Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called the bluff of the Republican-controlled state legislature. Good for him.

Setting a new standard in bad behavior, the legislature’s budget writers made next year’s fiscal plan a tool in an ongoing power struggle they’re having with the governor. Apparently unsatisfied with the Nixon administration’s response to a made-up scandal about scanning documents used for driver’s license applications, budget writers funded the Department of Revenue’s motor vehicle division for only eight months of the fiscal year which begins July 1. They said the department could have the rest of the money if it quit copying and retaining documents by January, when the legislature convenes for the 2014 session.

This you don’t do. If the legislature has a problem with something the administration is doing, it can attempt to pass a law correcting the perceived problem, assuming it passes legal muster. Or, legislative leaders could try meeting with the governor, airing their concerns and seeing what could be worked something out. (Though it’s true that Nixon isn’t one for cozy chats with the opposition. Or, for that matter, his allies.)

But messing with the budget, you do not do.

Nixon announced Wednesday he wouldn’t play ball. “This irresponsible tactic of attempting to fund government in a piecemeal fashion, to be revisited over the course of the year, is not the way we have done business in the past, and is not the way we will do business going forward,” he said.

Nixon said he would assume that the reduced budget, if passed by the full legislature, is all the divison of motor vehicles will receive for the 2014 fiscal year. Beginning July 1, he will cut staff and services accordingly, he said.

That, of course, would not sit well with Missourians. The cuts would affect the printing and distribution of Missouri-issued drivers licenses, as well as the issuances of titles and registrations for boats, ATVs and manufactured homes. Citizens don’t appreciate delays in those functions.

Folks might blame the governor. But this is, after all, the legislature’s budget, and I’m pretty sure the governor and his supporters will make that clear.

So the ball is back in the legislature’s court. Will Republicans stick with their ill-fated strategy or reject their own budget negotiators? Nixon has boxed them into a corner, and they have no one but themselves to blame.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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