Previously, most of the openings for contract agents who operate the offices were not competitively bid, and Nixon said the appointments were often made on the basis of political favoritism.
Nixon's new plan calls for competitive bidding, a process that began Tuesday when requests for proposals from interested vendors were posted for six of the state's contract offices by the Missouri Department of Revenue. Included among the first six locations to be bid are the Columbia office -- at the intersection of Providence Road and Vandiver Drive -- as well as offices in Mexico, Moberly, St. Charles, Liberty and Springfield.
The governor, in his third day in office, told reporters that the fee offices -- where taxes are collected, drivers licenses are issued and motor vehicles are titled and registered -- netted $2.7 million in processing fees last year.
The Columbia location, for instance, where Republican campaign donor and local investor Scott Atkins is contract agent, collected more than $685,000 in processing fees in fiscal 2008.
Atkins could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Among the first six selected by the Nixon administration to be competitively bid is the St. Charles office whose fee agents include the father of the former Missouri House GOP Leader Tom Dempsey, now a state senator from St. Charles.
Nixon's choice to be director of the state Revenue Department, Karen King Mitchell, estimated that bids could be awarded within eight weeks at the six aforementioned locations, with requests for proposals for other offices to be sent out on a weekly basis until all 183 locations, excluding a state-run office in Jefferson City, are competitively bid.
She said that current contract agents would not be excluded in the bidding process.
"There will be folks who currently have these offices that will be bidding; there will folks who have had offices in the past that will be bidding, and we'll be looking at those as well," King Mitchell said.
She referred to a point-matrix system that would be used to evaluate potential bidders. That system includes 45 points for efficiency of operations, 30 points for personal qualifications and five points each for being a civic or not-for-profit organization, being a woman or minority applicant and being willing to direct a portion of the office's processing fees back to the state's coffers.
King Mitchell also noted that the requests for proposals called for a one-year contract with three additional one-year renewals possible.
In concluding Wednesday's news conference, Nixon said, "This is a big financial step; now is the time to take that step."