Governors in the news: coast to coast, it's been a rough week for state executives

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January 16, 2011

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Governor Brown may shutter public libraries, definitely wants cell phones back

Cash strapped California, newly governed by Democrat Jerry Brown has been presented with a budget proposal that suggest zeroing out funding for public libraries, thus saving $30 million.[1] If passed as is, the budget will cut all funding for the Public Library Foundation, Transaction Based Reimbursement and the California Library Literacy and English Acquisition Service. Those services receive money from sources aside form the state government, but the loss would still be an enormous financial blow. In response, the California Library Association has pointed a strong of funding cuts it has accepted dating back to early 1980s and insisted public libraries have already done their part to right the state's budget.

While he waits to see what the legislature and the voters will make of his budget, Governor Brown has called for the immediate return of 48,000 tax-payer funded state phones given to state employees, half of the 96,000 cell phone currently paid for from the state's coffers.[2] Brown has already given up his own publicly funded cell phone and expects to save $20 million a year by collecting them from most of the state employees who currently enjoy such a perk. He pointed to the fact that 40% of those on the state's pay roll have a citizen funded phone and that he believes, especially in the face of the deficit California faces, it is only justifiable to provide phones to top-tier executives who truly must be available at all times.

Massachusett's Deval Patrick continues shaking up agency staffs with resignation at parole board

As he begins his second term, Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick is asking for resignations at agencies around the state. The newest target is the state's parole board, where five members offered their resignations, which Patrick accepted, over voting to parole a man who murdered a police officer last month.[3]

Jack Maguire, a Woburn police officer, was gunned down by Dominic Cinelli  during a failed jewelry store heist on December 26, 2010. Cinelli had been paroled about 18 months earlier. Gov. Patrick expanded on the parole board reform by promising legislation to require the most severe sentence possible for felons convicted of a third offense.


Minnesota threatens to send a threatening letter to Wisconsin over unpaid tax reimbursement

Mark Dayton, Minnesota's new Governor, is searching for ways to balance his state's budget and he's looking across state lines to do so, calling in a $58 million debt. Wisconsin, where Scott Walker has recently taken office, was in a tax reciprocity agreement with Minnesota from the 1960s until the fall of 2009 when Dayton's predecessor, Republican Tim Pawlenty pulled out of the agreement. The arrangement allowed people who lived in one state and worked in the other to pay taxes in only their state of residence. Because more Wisconsinites work in Minnesota that vice versa, Wisconsin had been sending money to Minnesota each year.[4]

When Gov. Pawlenty pulled his state out of the plan, he cited Wisconsin's failure to make timely payments under then-Governor Jim Doyle. The plan's collapse meant that for tax day 2011, 22,000 Minnesotans and 57,000 Wisconsin taxpayers will file multiple state returns. It also means Wisconsin, as of December 1, 2010, owes $58 million to Minnesota, money that accrues interest at the rate of more than $4,000 a day. Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler wants to reach a payment arrangement and renew the tax reciprocity, while Governor Dayton, who has already taken such steps as expanding his state's Medicaid roles by close to 100,000 is likely to be looking for payment sooner rather than later.

Haley Barbour calls for Civil Rights Museum in his final State of the State address

Weeks after making comments about Mississippi's past during the Civil Rights era that some considered insensitive and even racist, the state's Republican Governor Haley Barbour delivered his final State of the State address to the General Assembly. His call to mark the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War with a Civil Rights museum received a standing ovation. Unlike neighboring Alabama and Tennessee, Mississippi has not got a major museum dedicated to the Civil Rights struggle. The idea was approved but not funded by the state legislature in 2007. A lack on money and fighting over the location stalled and project.[5]

Nevada's Governor is in the doghouse over...dogs

Brian Sandoval, sworn in as Governor of Nevada earlier this month, is in violation of a Washoe County law meant to stop unlicensed dog kennels. An article profiling the First Family mentioned two cats, two birds, one rat, one turtle, and four dogs – one more than legally allowed for a household that isn't a licensed kennel.[6] The stories appearance led to readers calling their Governor on his failure to adhere to the law. Animal Control officials ruled that Sandoval does not get an exception, though the point may now be moot. The Sandoval's have moved into the Governor's Mansion, which,a s state property, is exempt from municipal codes. In his own defense, Sandoval said he never intended to violate the law but had been watching the fourth dog for a sick friend who later died. Nevada's legislature may see a bill to allow a new category for “hobby kennels' that would somewhat ease the current law.

Rhode Island Governor decrees that state workers won't be allowed to participate in talk radio

Republican Donald L. Carcieri, only days into his retirement, was a great fan of talk radio, and often used it to talk up his policies. Newly inaugurated Lincoln Chafee is going a different route. He has stated he won't give interview to talk radio stations and now he's gone a step beyond that. Following a directive due out from the Governor's office this week, state employees will be banned from speaking on talk radio during work time. Chafee's spokesman, Michael Trainor, said the plan reflects a belief that talk radio is a profit-driven and ratings focused business and that allowing state employees to make comments and interviews on talk radio on taxpayer funded time would be a misuse of the citizens' money.[7]

Early reaction had talk radio station hosts and managers questioning why they had been singled out among television stations and newspapers, while ex-Governor Buddy Cianci, who has his own popular radio show, publicly suggested to the policy is a clever way for Governor Chafee to avoid speaking on policies he come under fire for.[8] Chafee's office clarified the rule, saying the ban won't apply to emergency situations, and could only a temporary act, but that has done little to quell outcry.