Governors in the news: state executives tackle healthcare and budget woes, issue pardons, and face criticism over comments on Civil Rights

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December 21, 2010

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Arizona Governor asks Congress for permission to cut her state's Medicaid rolls

Arizona's Jan Brewer, the recently re-elected Republican Governor, has requested that Congress repeal a ban that is currently preventing her from trimming 250,000 people from Arizona's Medicaid services. Brewer says she must be able to make the cuts for the sake of fixing Arizona's budget deficit.[1] She wrote directly to the presumptive Speaker of the 112th Congress, John Boehner, emphasizing Arizona's remarkably generous Medicaid laws. According to Brewer, the laws have resulted in nearly 20% of Arizonans getting free care from the state. The Obama Administration's healthcare law mandates that states keep their laws at least as liberal as they were when the Act passed, something Brewer says her state simply cannot afford.

Incoming California Governor will abolish state agency

Governor-elect Jerry Brown announced he will shut down the state's office of the Inspector General over budget concerns.

Trying to get ahead of California's dire financial picture, Governor-elect Jerry Brown today announced he will shut down the state's office of the Inspector General, citing the office's duplication of efforts made by other state agencies. One-time L.A. City Controller Laura Chick, who most recently oversaw the disbursement of $50 billion in stimulus funds, will be the last Inspector General. Chick, a Democrat and an appointee of outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, publicly disagreed with Brown's decision, saying that the office is necessary to bring transparency to wasteful spending in the state.[2]


Creationist theme park backed by Kentucky Governor gets preliminary approval

Ark Encounters, a proposed theme park centered around a life-sized Noah's Ark, has gotten initial approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.[3] The six-member board unanimously voted to allow Ark Encounters to apply for tax benefits worth up to $37 million over ten years. The state's Democratic Governor, Steve Beshear, who faces re-election in 2011, earned national scrutiny when he announced he supported the tax breaks for the project. Ark Encounters, as earlier reported by Ballotpedia, will be built and run by the same group behind the Creation Museum, also in Kentucky.

Mississippi Governor faces growing firestorm over comments about the Civil Rights era

Mississippi Republican Haley Barbour, who leaves office after 2011 and who is seen as a possible 2012 Presidential contender, is in the midst of a backlash sparked over comments he made in an interview with The Weekly Standard.[4] The sentence that really started to furor was Barbour's partial response to his memories of growing up in the pre-integration Deep South. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. Barbour's spokesman refuted accusations in the national media that the Mississippi Governor is racist, though the story is still picking up steam.[5]

New Jersey Governor commutes sentence for gun possession

New Jersey's Republican Governor, Chris Christie, has commuted the seven year prison sentence of Brian Aitken to time served.[6] Aitken was convicted in August 2009 of illegally transporting guns. He had legally purchased four guns in Colorado and was bringing them with him as he moved to New Jersey. Aitken contacted New Jersey police before entering the state and found out the relevant law and had the unloaded guns in locked cases in the trunk of his car. After he had crossed the state line, state police called him and asked him to come to his mother's home.[7]

She had told police she believed her son was suicidal and when he arrived at her house, waiting police searched his car, found the guns, and arrested him for possessing handguns without a permit. While Aitken was legally transporting the guns from one residence to another and had already contacted police before entering New Jersey, Judge James Morley refused to let jurors hear either fact. Governor Christie declined to reappoint Morley earlier this year over the judge's rulings in unrelated cases.[8]

Oregon's next Governor announces GOP legislative aide to handle health policy

Governor-elect John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who has governed the state previously, announced Mike Bonetto as his top adviser of health policy.[9] Bonetto is a former senior legislative aide and most recently served as a hospital executive in Bend, Oregon. Kitzhaber is a physician by training and has long made health care reform a policy priority. He compared his plans for his administration to those of neighboring Washington, also governed by a Democrat. Kitzhaber admits that he favors rationing services and was, as a legislator in the 1980s, an author of the Oregon Health Plan.