Blunt tells Missourians to expect change

Challenges await newly elected governor as he works on improving schools and health care.
Thursday, November 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Transition is the new focus for governor-elect Matt Blunt as his camp prepares to move into the governor’s office. At his home in Springfield on Wednesday, Blunt discussed his plans.

He talked about turning from a campaign mindset into a governing mindset and some of the challenges and differences involved, said Blunt spokesman John Hancock.

Blunt, Missouri’s second-youngest governor, defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill by nearly 3 percentage points in Tuesday’s election. The secretary of state office’s unofficial results puts Blunt about 80,000 votes ahead of McCaskill.

He lost in St. Louis and Kansas City, but won overwhelmingly in rural Missouri in a similar pattern that carried President Bush and Republican Sen. Kit Bond to even larger victories in the Show-Me State.

Missourians can expect change, Blunt promised Wednesday. Yet Blunt also faces the challenge of his success — making good on his pledge to revamp government and improve education, health care and roads.

The advantage for Republicans: “They’re going to be in an excellent position to implement their policy ideas,” said Terry Jones, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The disadvantage for Blunt’s GOP majority: “The accountability will be exclusively now on the Republican Party. As the state goes — better or worse, the Republican Party will take either credit or blame for that,” Jones said.

Hancock said a transition team and team leader will be announced soon. He said as of Wednesday afternoon a decision has not been reached on who those individuals will be. Other than announcing a transition team, Blunt’s next priority as governor-elect is to meet with legislative leaders in the General Assembly.

Even before he takes office, Blunt plans to appoint a commission to recommend the first restructuring of state government since Bond was elected the state’s youngest governor in 1972, Hancock said. He also intends to outline various policy proposals while traveling the state and assembling a Cabinet before he’s sworn into office, Hancock said.

“Our top legislative priority needs to be doing things to help Missouri’s entrepreneurs and small business owners and employers create jobs,” Blunt said. “Regulatory relief, worker’s compensation reform, liability reform are important components of that. ...

“Then, one of our budget priorities needs to be education. And the budget decisions I make are going to demonstrate that we’re serious about funding Missouri’s public schools.Something we’ll need to work on very quickly is crafting a new school funding formula so that we’ll have a more equitable formula.”

Blunt will also initiate the process of putting together his new government reorganization task force, which will fulfill his promise of restructuring state government. Hancock said Blunt will be back in Jefferson City as early as today to start the transition process.

“We expect the governor to be very helpful in this transition process,” said Hancock. “I think Gov. Holden has proven himself to be magnanimous, and we are very optimistic about a strong working relationship.”

The Office of Administration has already designated office space for the newly elected statewide officials.

“The legislature every four years sets aside a sum of money to provide whatever those small expenses will be for a few transition people for each elected official,” said Ann Hamlin, spokesperson for the Office of Administration.

The amount also pays the salaries of transition team members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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