This Week in the Governor’s Office: Week of Feb. 20
An act of vandalism at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, sparked national media attention when it became the focal point of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the city Wednesday, accompanied by Gov. Eric Greitens. Greitens, who himself is Jewish, quickly condemned the vandals, who knocked over roughly 150 tombstones.
“There is a concept in Jewish teaching and thought known as tikkun olam,” he said in a statement Monday, asking for volunteers to assist with clean up efforts. “It translates literally into ‘repairing the world,’ but what it means more broadly is that we all have an obligation to one another and to be of service. It is in moments like this that the world is in most need of repair, and we must do our part.”
Greitens and Pence prayed at an interfaith service, raked leaves and helped reinstall some tombstones, though most had already been replaced by Wednesday.
Before visiting the cemetery, Greitens took Pence on a tour of the state and held a round table discussion about economic plans and regulatory elimination at Fabick Cat headquarters in Fenton, Missouri. The governor went on Fox News to talk about the visit.
In the Capitol proper, the governor had a relatively quiet week. Thursday, he announced a budget revision that would send $52 million earned from $60 million in settlements back into K-12 transportation and in home care services through Medicaid.
While leadership in the House questioned the effectiveness of using a one-time lump sum back into the budget instead of releasing withheld funds, those two areas marked two of the most controversial spending cuts recommended by the governor in his recommendations for the budget. Both programs will still fall below their funding totals from last year, but Greitens said the cuts to those programs were tough choices that needed to be made.
“Missouri needs to get our fiscal house in order,” he said in a statement. “We need to cut unnecessary programs, reform others, and get maximum value from a minimum of tax dollars.”
Several Democrats also questioned the governor’s use of private planes instead of the state plane. Though praised for eschewing the use of state funds to travel around the state and country, lawmakers had concerns regarding the transparency of who exactly was funding his private plane use at a House Budget hearing Wednesday. A representative from his office was tight-lipped on that count.
“I have no information on that,” Greitens’ Cheif of Staff Michael Roche said. “It’s not something that the Governor’s Office would have or retain.”
In response, Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, wrote a letter asking for information of the private and campaign donors paying for his travel. Another Kansas City Democrat, Rep. Mark Ellebracht, filed a bill last week which would require future governors to disclose the source of funds for inaugural events – something Greitens has been similarly opaque about in regards to his own inaugural festivities.
Greitens also rounded out the final four members of his Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes Friday. His own pick to lead the Department of Revenue, Joel Walters, will chair the committee and his policy director Will Scharf will be on the committee. Former Sens. Jason Crowell and John Lamping were also selected by Greitens. The committee will examine ways to change the state’s tax scheme, including likely minimizing the amount of tax credits granted to private entities.