Stateline Story

Republican to Advise Democrat Kitzhaber on Oregon Health Policy

Oregon Governor-elect John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has named a Republican as his chief health policy advisor, the Portland Oregonian reports . Hospital executive Mike Bonetto is a former aide to Republicans in the Oregon legislature. Bonetto will have a tough job, as Kitzhaber tries to avoid large cuts in Medicaid through an overhaul of the system. Kitzhaber, a former two-term governor, is best known for his work on health care, including creation of the controversial Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program. 

Wyoming Governor-elect Matt Mead , a Republican, will enjoy something his colleagues in other states can only dream of: a large budget surplus. So far, his plans for the surplus don't differ much from those of his Democratic predecessor. Wyoming, which budgets on a two-year basis, has $1 billion more than it expected for the biennium that began in July, thanks to high energy prices. The Associated Press reports that Mead is inclined to follow recommendations from outgoing Governor Dave Freudenthal to direct an additional $50 million apiece for local governments and roads. Mead also is evaluating Freudenthal's advice to send an extra $170 million to the state's Medicaid program.

In Kansas , several notable Republicans became Democrats in recent years. Now a state senator is headed in the opposite direction. Chris Steineger announced the switch on Friday, the Lawrence World-Journal reports . The son of a former Democratic leader in the Senate, Steineger had long been considered a renegade in the Democratic caucus. He was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote against a sales tax increase that was a top priority of Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson this year. "My views on taxing, borrowing and spending, and on the size and role of government in our society, have changed over the years and today more closely align with the Republican Party," Steineger said.  Several conservative Democratic legislators around the country have switched parties since the election, most of them in the South. But while those Democrats generally have come from Republican-trending districts, Steineger's is different. It gave President Obama 64 percent of the vote in 2008. 

The State
reports that Vincent Sheheen , the Democrat defeated for governor of South Carolina, is taking up a cause promoted by the Republican he hoped to replace. He has endorsed the creation of a state Department of Administration, which outgoing governor Mark Sanford had pressed for unsuccessfully. Sheheen, a state senator, came surprisingly close to being elected governor, taking 47 percent of the vote in his race against Republican Nikki Haley . By introducing legislation to create the new department, he's showing that he'll continue to support boosting the institutional power of the governor's office, a longtime Sanford cause. In South Carolina, most state administrative functions are handled by the statewide Budget and Control Board, which includes legislative and executive representation. Under Sheheen's plan, the new department would answer directly to the governor. Haley also supported the idea during the campaign, though for now her spokesperson is non-committal on Sheheen's bill.

The transition in Florida from Charlie Crist's administration to that of Rick Scott is going to take longer than expected. After winning the governorship last month, Scott had asked for resignations from the top ten officials in each state agency, an unusually high number. Now most of those officials, including most of Crist's cabinet, have been asked to stay on for as long as an additional three months, the Miami Herald reports . The move comes as some insiders worry that Scott's transition team is moving too slowly to select appointees. Scott, a Republican, generally was critical of Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, on the campaign trail.