JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri state workers will get an extra day to digest Thanksgiving turkey for the first time in two years after Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order Friday closing state offices the Friday after the holiday.
In granting the extra vacation day, Nixon pointed to efforts to cut state spending, improving state revenues and more certainty over the budget. Earlier Friday, figures released by the state Office of Administration showed Missouri's revenues up 7.5 percent compared to last year.
"I am pleased to be able to provide our hard-working state employees with the day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving," Nixon said. "Obviously, public safety and other around-the-clock services and facilities will continue their normal operations."
Missouri governors traditionally have given state workers the day off, and Nixon followed suit during his first year in office. But budget concerns led him to keep kept state facilities open in 2010 and 2011. The holiday costs the state money because some employees who still must work — such as prison guards — have been able to choose whether to claim extra time off or accept holiday bonus pay.
Nixon, a Democrat, is running for re-election and appears on the ballot Tuesday. He is challenged by Republican Dave Spence, a businessman from St. Louis.
Spence campaign manager Jared Craighead said Nixon has treated state workers poorly and that announcing the holiday four days before the election seems politically motivated.
"It's completely politically transparent, it's disingenuous after the way he has treated them for the last three-and-a-half years," Craighead said. He said Spence supports giving state employees that day off.
Two years ago, Nixon encouraged the state legislature to approve a bill to cancel state holidays for Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman as the state faced budget troubles. The proposal did not pass, and state workers sent Nixon dozens of emails objecting to the idea while suggesting alternative cost-cutting moves.
State revenue figures released Friday show that collections from individual income taxes are up 3.2 percent compared to the same point last year and that sales taxes are up about 2.7 percent. Tax refunds also are down 25 percent from last year. The state's budget year started July 1.
State budget director Linda Luebbering said the 7.5 percent growth in revenue includes a $39 million payment from a settlement with mortgage lenders. Without the payment, state revenues would be up a little more than 5 percent.