The Joplin Globe‘s Thursday editorial offered some criticism of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich’s peevish lawsuit against Governor Jay Nixon.
The paper said Schweich’s “timing couldn’t be more wrong.”
The Republican Schweich is suing the Democratic governor over Nixon’s methods—”unconstitutional” says the auditor—of making disaster relief funding available to Joplin and other disaster areas in the state, which methods involved withholding $170 million in funds that had already been appropriated for other uses—including an extra $300,000 for Schweich’s state office—and diverting them into disaster relief, a hefty chunk of which is designated for Joplin.
The Globe mentioned the issue of Schweich’s political motives involving the pantless party-troubled Lt. Governor Peter Kinder:
Schweich, in an interview Tuesday with the Globe, brought up Kinder before we did. He said the lawsuit has absolutely nothing to do with Kinder or politics. Asked if he would have filed the lawsuit had he been working with a Republican governor, Schweich was emphatic with his answer.
“Absolutely. I sent Nixon a letter about the audit findings and he’s blown me off. I would have done the same thing if that type of response had come from a Republican governor.”
You see? Nixon’s real sin, apparently, is that he blew off the sensitive auditor.
The issue is interesting for another reason. There is a battle of editorial positions of the state’s two largest newspapers over Nixon’s admittedly sneaky end-around.
A Kansas City Star editorial criticized Nixon for acting “at least unwise and arrogant” and for taking his “cutter in chief” reputation “too far“:
The Democratic governor has arbitrarily been altering the 2012 budget sent to him by the Republican-controlled legislature. He’s cut money appropriated for colleges and universities, the Parents as Teachers program, the state transportation department and other functions.
The paper suggests that Nixon’s motive for helping places like Joplin involves some politics:
Nixon can meet emergency expenses without further penalizing universities and people in need of social services. The obvious option is to tap the state’s $527 million rainy day fund. If flooding and tornadoes don’t qualify as a rainy day, why have an emergency account?
Using the fund would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature, and the money would have to be paid back over three years. Key lawmakers from both parties say they would be willing to authorize the spending. Nixon would have to share the credit for helping tornado victims, but at this point some esprit de corps would be a welcome change.
Yes, shame on a politician up for reelection for not wanting to share any credit that might come his way. Shame, shame, shame. But the Star does have a point about some of the budget cuts. Part of the amount will come from general revenue, but the majority of it will come from cutting funding for state agencies and programs, including Medicaid and children’s services.
If a Republican were to do that, I think state Missouri Democrats would be, shall we say, not so supportive.
On the other hand, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorialized this way:
On its surface, the action might seem like just another example of a politician who equates governance with campaigning, a typical attempt at blatant partisanship wrapped up in legal arguments weaker than a first-year law student’s paper written after an all-night bender.
There’s more about that $300,000 increase in Schweich’s office budget:
In a nutshell: The governor is wrong to cut the auditor’s budget to pay for rebuilding the devastation caused by the Joplin tornado.
That’s right. Mr. Schweich wants the court and the public to believe that his budget is more important than helping a city rebuild from one of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history.
Mr. Schweich, were he granting interviews, probably would take issue with that characterization, but that’s what his lawsuit does.
And the final touché:
Were Mr. Schweich to win his legal argument, he would get access to his $300,000. The folks in Joplin would have to wait for the Legislature to decide whether they were as worthy.
As for the Joplin Globe, home of the largest disaster in state history, its editorial ended with this:
Now it will be up to the courts to decide if Nixon has overstepped the authority that comes with being governor.
We doubt the people who lived in the 7,000 homes destroyed by the tornado are going to care. We doubt the 545 business owners who are trying to get up and running are going to care.
It may turn out that Schweich is right about the process the governor used to find money to pay for Joplin’s disaster relief.
But his timing couldn’t be more wrong.