Peter Kinder in charge as acting governor

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gov. Matt Blunt resumes control Sunday after a trade mission to Europe.

Voters elected Peter Kinder as Missouri's lieutenant governor, but since March 17 he's been running the show as the acting governor.

Kinder has headed the state's government since Gov. Matt Blunt departed on a trade mission to Europe. The governor is scheduled to resume control of state government Sunday night.

Kinder will take an official trip as acting governor over the weekend. He'll travel to New York City Friday morning to promote the state to business leaders from around the world. He'll attend a performance of the St. Louis Symphony Friday night at Carnegie Hall.

The trip is privately funded, Kinder said. The Hawthorn Foundation, a not-for-profit economic development organization, will foot the bill.

While acting governor, Kinder will see his paycheck beefed up a bit. As lieutenant governor, Kinder is paid $77,184 a year. But while acting governor he receives the same daily pay as the governor, who makes an annual salary of $120,087.

Even though he'll be out of the state, Kinder will remain in charge of state government as allowed by law.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the governor retains his power even when outside the state unless he turns over control to the lieutenant governor. That case resulted from a dispute between then-governor John Ashcroft, a Republican, and then-lieutenant governor Mel Carnahan, a Democrat.

Ashcroft successfully argued that power didn't flow automatically to the lieutenant governor when the governor was absent from the state.

That hasn't been an issue for Kinder and Blunt, who are both Republicans. "Matt and I have a letter of agreement," Kinder said.

Kinder has served as acting governor several times since taking office in January 2005. "This is by far the longest," Kinder said Monday. "Usually it is two or three days."

Kinder has made a number of public appearances as acting governor this time. He attended the groundbreaking for construction of a $600 million cement plant in Ste. Genevieve last Friday. On Monday, he attended a St. Louis news conference where he credited tort reform for making the state more attractive to business and industry.

He hasn't signed any bills into law this time. As acting governor last June, he signed an aviation bill into law at a ceremony at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

As acting governor, Kinder could leave the driving to a state trooper. But he hasn't done so, preferring to drive his own car. "I kind of want to have my car wherever I am going," he said.

Kinder also doesn't have the kind of security surrounding him that the elected governor does. "The governor has 24-7 security, but I don't," he said.

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