Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Closer Look at the Budget

Here are some thoughts after taking a closer look at the Greitens budget…

Governor’s Office Transparency – Governor Eric Greitens proposed moving 14 jobs out of the governor’s office to the Department of Public Safety.  There’s no real substantive change here as it appears to be his security detail.  They’ll do the same job; it’s a matter of where the jobs are placed in the budget.  Some have argued that they should be included in the governor’s budget so folks can have a real sense of how much it costs to provide this service to the state’s chief executive.  The larger issue is transparency.  Jay Nixon had a habit of hiding some of his office’s expenses in other departments. He would off-load travel and personnel expenses into other departments although they were clearly serving the governor.  Good government advocates prefer to eliminate such sleight of hands.

Not That Radical – The overall impression of the budget is that it’s mostly “Nixonian.”  After all the talk of being an outsider and shaking up the established order there’s very little evidence of it in the budget (except the “Bright Spot” below).  Where are the bold moves?  It’s largely a status-quo budget with the big cuts coming from the usual suspects – Higher Ed and Social Services.  I think delaying the budget announcement together with Greitens rhetoric built greater anticipation of a major change in direction.  It could be that Greitens has so many Nixon hold-overs in the state bureaucracy that he didn’t receive have much input for changes to work with.

State of the State Proposals MIA – Previous governors have unveiled their budget with the State of the State address  This naturally leads to a marriage of the governor’s proposals and the funding for them.  But instead the Greitens budget was missing many of the proposals from the SOTS.  Reduce state employee headcount?  Greitens offered less than 200 from the state workforce of 50,000-ish.  In other words, they won’t replace a few of the folks who retire this year.  Tax Credit reform?  He only eliminates two small appropriated tax credit from the budget.  Education Saving Accounts?  The budget doesn’t mention how they’d be funded.  Still running COBOL on state computers?  There’s no big investment in technology modernization.

One Bright Spot for Fiscal Conservatives – There is one aspect of Greitens’ budget which fulfills his pledge to change the way business is done.  His proposed budget axes a lot of the legislative earmarks: STEM pilot program, fine arts academy, student web portal… all small line items to fund pet projects of various legislators.



It appears that on his way out the door, Jay Nixon appointed a number of his loyal aides to administrative law judgeships.  They include Joel Anderson – who was legal counsel in the governor’s office; Harry Bozoian – who had been director at DNR; Andrea Spillars – who was counsel to the governor; and Bill Miller – who was acting policy director for the governor.

It’s said that Republicans were aware that there were open administrative judges slots that were open and that Nixon was intending to fill with “lieutenants.”  But I guess the question now is whether the legislature funds all the ALJs that are on the books.  One observer notes that some of the slots have been unfilled for more than a year, so there’s some evidence that they can do the work without a full roster.


If Greitens doesn’t want to wait on the legislature he can fire these late appointees – according to this precedent which the Supreme Court did not take up for consideration.


Erdmann to Start

Word is that Drew Erdmann will finally be starting his gig as the state’s first COO sometime this week.  The press has asked – without success – what Erdmann’s pay would be.  One assumes that question will finally be answered.  The rumor is that he may take a nominal $1 or something like that to indicate that he considers this pure public service.

Others believe that this career choice is not entirely selfless.  They speculate that Erdmann will return to the consulting world after a stint, and his “real world” experience will enhance his cachet (and billing rate?).  Especially if he has some big accomplishments under his belt.


There’s also the belief that Jeff Stuerman – who has been Greitens’ campaign treasurer – may be joining the administration. If the rumor is true, it would also be at the executive level and it would also be for a nominal amount.

Together these two moves would indicate an attempt by Greitens to “do different” when it comes to management structure of the state.


Unions Prep for Referendum

KC Star’s Jason Hancock reports that follow Governor Eric Greitens signing right to work into law, the AFL-CIO immediately filed paperwork to put the issue to a vote of the people.  See it here.

Pull Quote: Monday afternoon, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis and Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel filed a petition for referendum with the secretary of state’s office. They have until Aug. 28 — the day the right-to-work measure is scheduled to go into effect — to collect enough signatures to place the law on the ballot. If they succeed, right to work won’t take effect until Missourians get the chance to have their say in 2018… Citizens may call a referendum on a measure approved by the General Assembly and not vetoed by the governor as long as they collect signatures totaling 5 percent of the voters from two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts… Although the referendum petition was regularly used in Missouri during the early 20th century, the last time it was used was 1982… In addition to Monday’s referendum petition, Louis has also filed several versions of an initiative petition that would ask voters to amend the state’s Constitution to essentially outlaw right-to-work laws. Louis said the decision about which to pursue — constitutional amendment or the referendum — has not yet been made.


On the same day that the governor signed right to work, the Senate started on another bill to hurt organized labor, Sen. Bob Onder’s SB182 concerning project labor agreements.


French Sued By Construction Firm

St. Louis mayoral candidate Antonio French is being sued Vision Property LLC which alleges that he has failed to pay over $160,000 in invoices.  Vision says that they did construction work at French’s North Campus as well as two other projects and have been left on the hook for the expenses.  See Vision Property’s website here. (One of the projects listed in the suit, 4518 Athlone, is shown in their “recent work” page.)

The lawsuit was filed January 30.

The St. Louis Business Journal reported last month that North Campus had its non-profit status revoked due to a failure to file its annual returns.


Wine King of St. Charles County?

In the daily tax credit issuance run-down I get, the Lamping Family Farm is listed receiving the Wine Tax Credit.  It could be someone different than former Sen. John Lamping – a tax credit critic.  But it is in House 42.  That district includes Augusta where Lamping bought a 50-acre farm after leaving the Senate…


West to Speak to Cattlemen

Former Congressman Allen West will speak to the Missouri Cattlemen Association on February 15.  Some commenters on the Facebook page think he’s too far right.


eMailbag on Trump Approval

Welcome to Missouri. Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump's win in Missouri is a death knell for Claire McCaskill didn't notice that in your polls, only like a week apart, they have the exact same job approval: 47% approve and 43% disapprove.


Help Wanted

The Division of Tourism seeks research firm.

From the bid document…

The Division of Tourism is dedicated to wise and strategic investments in travel promotion based upon an extensive marketing research program….  Marketing & Media Effectiveness Study; Advertising Testing/Concept Study; Website Functionality and Effectiveness Study; Domestic Visitor Data Collection Survey and Database Project; Missouri Tourism Economic Impact Analysis Study/Report; Domestic Destination Awareness & Brand Study; International Destination Awareness & Brand Study; and Customer Satisfaction Study(ies).  The contractor shall understand that the studies listed above constitute potential and estimated research needs over the next four years….


Today’s Events

From Mary Scruggs’ indispensable events calendar:

Northeast Days – “Fall in Love with NEMO” – 3rd floor rotunda – 10AM.


Wear Red Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the American Heart Association’s Go Red Day.  “We encourage everyone to wear red, raise their voices, know their cardiovascular risks and take action to live longer, healthier lives!”


Lobbyists Registrations

Harry Otto added Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Julie Riddle added United Way of Greater Kansas City.

Alex Eaton, Rebecca Lohmann, Danny Pfeifer and Greg Porter added Merger Group, and Turo Inc.

Alex Eaton added Missouri Century Foundation.

Danny Pfeifer deleted FMC Corporation.


$5K+ Contributions

Committee to Elect Reed - $7,500 from Lodging Hospitality Management.

Lyda Krewson for Mayor - $10,000 from John Simon.

Lyda Krewson for Mayor - $6,000 from Robert Vitale.

Professional Firefighters of Northwest St. Louis - $7,500 from Normandy Firefighters Fund.