JEFFERSON CITY - Whether Missouri leaders deserve to be on Santa's "nice" list rather than his "naughty" list, is largely a matter of individual political opinion.
But state officials are confident they have been good little boys and girls this year and are hoping for what from a policy standpoint amounts to shiny new toys instead lumps of dirty coal.
Faced with budget cuts this year that no chief executive, especially a Democrat, wants to contend with, Gov. Bob Holden needed no time to think about what's at the top of his Christmas list.
"A stronger economy," Holden said.
He'd also like to find some other goodies in his stocking for his legislative agenda, but for now that's between him and the Big Man in Red.
"I've got to sit down with my youngest son and work on his fourth rendition of his letter to Santa Claus, and I'll try to work something into that list for me," Holden said.
Economic recovery promises to be the hot item every politician wants for Christmas.
"I truly want to have a stronger economy because ultimately that means our families are more secure in their homes and communities," said Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, a Democrat.
State Rep. Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, will be looking for long-sought legislation under his tree, including reforms at the much-maligned Department of Transportation and what has become the Holy Grail for Missouri's Second Amendment advocates.
"I'd like to get a transportation plan that provides accountability and reorganization at MoDOT first, before we look at taxes," Jetton said.
"Then I'd like to get a conceal and carry bill. I don't know if I'm going to get either, actually."
No word if Jetton's mild pessimism stems from an expectation that his name is in Santa's "naughty" file.
Having endured criticism by Democrats, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, broke out a $5 word for his letter to Santa, saying he wanted "comity and collegiality in the Senate."
For those without a dictionary handy, comity means "courteous behavior; politeness."
"That is occasionally strained in the heat of debate and discussion that comes with doing the people's business," Kinder said. "Hopefully, we can maintain civility. That would be nice, considering the unprecedented barbs thrown our way in recent months."
Kinder said his desires are along the lines of "peace on Earth and goodwill toward men." He didn't elaborate on whether he planned to introduce such legislation and appropriate additional funds to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for enforcement.
With close to half of the members of the General Assembly set to be kicked out by term limits, state Rep. Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, said his Christmas wish is that legislative short-timers, himself included, remain committed during their final year of service.
"When you know you're a lame duck, sometimes there is a different perspective," Naeger said. "I hope people continue down the road of honor and dignity to do the utmost job for the people they represent."
State Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is keeping his Christmas wishes simple, expressing a sentiment echoed by most of the other state officials.
"The first thing I want, especially in light of Sept. 11, is to make sure people have an opportunity to spend time with their families," Crowell said.